Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Serious Writing

A Perfect Example Demonstrating the Inherent Bias in a Sports Fan

Yesterday I watched with great satisfaction Chelsea getting the better of Arsenal (well, duh!) early in the morning. That pretty much made my day and my weekend. The match was not without incident. Arsene Wenger openly pushed Mourinho in the latter’s technical area following a Gary Cahill tackle on Alexis Sanchez. I am not as interested in why Wenger pushed Mourinho or what exactly transpired there. What drew my attention earlier today is how fans from the two teams reacted to the news that Arsene Wenger wouldn’t be charged by the FA. For this, I looked at the SB Nation blogs for both the teams. (Yes, I follow the Arsenal and Man Utd SB Nation blogs in addition to Chelsea’s).

Wenger pushing Mourinho. But of course, Mourinho is at fault!

If you are not aware, SB Nation is a very well organized website with separate blogs for each sports team across different sports and geographies. The content is generally admirable and there are usually few posts every day on each blog, so this way you will always have something to read about your team. As a fan, this is invaluable as it gives a sense of being part of a fan community from all over the world. You should definitely check it out. But I digress.

So following the FA’s announcement today, We Ain’t Got No History, SB Nation’s Chelsea Blog ran a post that pretty much summed up my feelings. Just the hypocrisy of the FA when it comes to punishing Mourinho (or Pardew for that matter) over other managers is something that never seems to go away. I can possibly write an entire post on that but I won’t. For the most part, WAGNH’s post covers it – with a generous dose of sarcasm and an underlying frustration. Here is a quote from there:

“Point B” was of course on the pitch, where managers aren’t allowed, technically, but let’s not worry too much about technicalities.  It’s not like they matter anyway.

Here’s a thought exercise.  Say we reverse the roles, and it’s Jose Mourinho (or, say, Alan Pardew) who puts both hands on Wenger’s chest and shoves him (however meekly), just how many games do you think he would’ve gotten here?  Three?  Four?  Ten?  Perhaps with a public flogging or two?

Mind you, the Arsenal manager received a fine and a one-match ban for a “sarcastic pat on the back” of the fourth official in 2010.  It’s good to know that the FA considers a light tap on the back a far harsher offense than physically confronting the opposing manager in his own technical area.

The tone and the text is self explanatory. Chelsea fans have seen Mourinho being fined and/or banned for far less by the FA. And watching Wenger go without as much as a warning obviously bothers us. But, whatever. Chelsea still won and Arsene Wenger still hasn’t won the only contest against Mourinho that actually matters – the one on the pitch. I was ready to cease my interest in this incident and get on with my work. But then…..

In comes The Short Fuse! SB Nation’s Arsenal blog. Ah! The Arsenal fans must be extremely relieved that their manager didn’t get any further punishment, right? Perhaps they realized that a manager just going out of his technical area itself constitutes a violation of the game’s rules? Nevermind actually pushing the other manager in the latter’s technical area! Surely they know that a manager is not allowed on the pitch itself? Obviously only the medical team is allowed on the pitch in case of injury, right?

Well, Fuck all that! Here is what The Short Fuse had to say (Bold emphasis added by me):

Both managers have admitted, in their own words, that it was a heated match.  Mourinho stated, accurately, that he’s been guilty of doing “many wrong things in football”, with Wenger confirming in his post-match press conference that Mourinho was guilty yet again in the sport by preventing him from attending to his fallen player, in this case Alexis Sanchez, after being viciously assaulted by Gary Cahill.

After agreeing with Mourinho in that he was wrong, while concluding that Wenger – who’s only got the best interests and concern for his player – was acting in good faith and acted only after being unjustly provoked, the FA made the correct and honest decision today.

I don’t even know where to start. Read the text slowly paying attention to each and every word or phrase. Look at the choice of words used here: ‘fallen player’, ‘viciously assaulted’, ‘Wenger confirming’ that ‘Mourinho was guilty yet again’, ‘being unjustly provoked’?????? Really??

Just to clarify, here is Mourinho’s full quote (You should really read all the quotes here):

But to be fair, I do so many wrong things in football, sometimes you lose emotions but not this time. This time I was just in my technical area and it was not my problem. Story over.

Ah! Nothing makes a quote fit your own narrative more than just picking pieces of it that you like! In addition to the quote manipulation, the choice of words used in the post reeks of complete and unapologetic bias. Apparently Mourinho was at fault because Wenger just confirmed it. Yes, that is all you need. Wenger confirmed that Mourinho was at fault. Case closed. Let’s all go home, eh? And while we are on the way, let’s also give Mourinho a 3 match ban OK?

(On a side note, this is exactly the kind of quotes I expect to hear on Fox News. Complete and unapologetic bias).

Now I can definitely understand the agitated state of mind of the Arsenal fan following yet another loss to Chelsea (and Mourinho). I can also understand the frustration and helplessness of supporting a constantly under achieving team. I can almost feel the outrage in the mind of the guy who wrote that Arsenal post. And it is something I have felt myself many many times over in the past decade or so that I have supported Chelsea. (God knows what all I wanted to do to referee Tom Overbo after the Chelsea – Barcelona semi-final from 2009). So yes I understand the outrage. But to blatantly portray a situation in a favorable light to your fellow fans while painting the other team as evil by twisting quotes and facts (especially like the above) shows something far more fundamental in a sports fan’s psyche. It shows the basic human condition of the need to rationalize by choosing to believe biased points of view.

Sports gives rise to many such situations at an extraordinary frequency – irrespective of whom you support. Add to this all the passion and rivalries that are part of any sport and you have a recipe for extreme mood swings on a weekly basis at the very least! And when the human mind has to cope with these mood swings, it just turns to the ever present tools of rationalization, confirmation bias and subjective validation to make itself feel better. These tools manifest themselves in things such as online arguments, finding fault with the referee, conspiracy theories, declaring that the other team ‘just didn’t deserve to win’, finding a scapegoat, calling for someone’s head, manipulating and presenting quotes and facts that fit our narrative, collective commiseration, etc. The list really is pretty long.

So when we have situations where we are extremely frustrated – like your sports team losing to a hated rival – our minds automatically look for how we can rationalize and justify the loss. Because if we can indeed justify it, then we get a sense of satisfaction from ‘knowing’ that there was something out of our team’s control that cost the result. This does not make us feel happy but it definitely helps in dealing with the pain. (Trust me I have been there many times).

And this is what The Short Fuse has done. The writer has clearly succumbed to the mind’s need to rationalize. His mind is essentially telling him: “Fuck objectivity! I just need to feel good right now!” And THAT, is a celebration of the human condition. The resulting piece only shows to what extent he must have been feeling that outrage and frustration.

The interesting thing about this is that it is not restricted to just sports. The same feelings of outrage, frustration and ultimately rationalization/justification also prevail strongly in all things that we hold sacred. These include topics such as religion, gun control, politics etc. The more passionate you get about something and hold it sacred, the less objective you tend to get in that topic. It is just the way the mind works.

Isn’t it indeed a fascinating world we live in – where we can put sports, religion and gun control in the same box?

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Arsenal, Chelsea, Fake Football News, Fake News, Football, My sense of Humour, Rant, Satire

Football Fan Wants All Teams to Play Attacking Football All The Time

Saying that he was bored to death after watching the Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea match, local football fan decided that he wants all teams to play attacking football all the time. He said that his decision was largely influenced by how Chelsea ‘parked the bus’ for the entire game and didn’t let Atletico Madrid score a single goal, thereby gaining a very valuable draw in the away leg of the Champions League Semi Final.

Football Fan deeply dissatisfied with Chelsea successfully parking the bus against all top attacking teams in Europe

“I cannot imagine how bad the game was. It was like watching paint dry. Chelsea just parked the bus and did not let Atleti to create any clear cut chances! They just could not breach Chelsea’s defense! That is just simply unacceptable from Chelsea! They should not be allowed to do that!” he said while expressing outrage about the scoreless draw.

The football fan now wants all teams to be required to play attacking football because “that is what is most entertaining and creates a lot of goals!”.

“It is not right to play a defensive game even if the team is playing away from home. Always attack attack attack!”

The self proclaimed Bayern Munich fan then went on to give examples of clubs like Barcelona and Bayern Munich who generally have a lot of possession and are always shown to be attacking the ball. “I was always supporting Barcelona. They were my passion. But then after last season’s semi final when they lost 8-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich, I just started getting attracted to Bayern somehow. Now I just support Bayern. They are the best team in the world because they keep playing attacking football all the time! It is real great to watch them.” Digressing from the topic a bit, he then went on to criticize how fans who previously supported Chelsea changed their allegiance to Man City after City started spending and winning more titles.

Football Fan insists that is the only way to go and nothing else is acceptable

When asked to elaborate about why all teams should play the same style of football, he said “I mean, who wants to watch teams with different styles of football and hailing from different football cultures – aerially dominating, long ball tactics, physical game play, counter attacking tactics, extremely defensive formations stifling the opponent’s attack, parking the bus – pitted against each other? Really, who wants to watch those styles of play going up against each other? All I want to see is two possession based teams who pass the ball a lot and create opportunities from through balls or cut-ins. Everything else is just boring!”

He went a step further and said that the players should not feel proud if they win by playing any other style of football and that if a free-passing team such as Bayern Munich or Barcelona loses, they should always feel proud of sticking to their brand of football. “Take the Barcelona – Chelsea semi final 2nd leg at the Nou Camp in 2012. I am sure that at the end of the day, all Barcelona players and fans were celebrating with pride how they never abandoned their philosophy and played with it right to the end of them getting knocked out! Never mind the fact that with practically 100% possession in the second half, Barcelona were able to generate only ONE meaningful shot on target with those tactics. I am just proud that they kept maintaining possession and passing the ball around aimlessly while Chelsea did not give them even an inch of space for a through ball. Chelsea do not deserve any credit for their performance that day at all – even if it was with ten men”.

Football fan feels Torres’ goal against Barcelona should make all Chelsea fans feel extremely ashamed of themselves

Among recent games, he pointed to the way Arsenal lost 6-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. “Hats off to Arsenal for not at all changing any of their tactics or style of football while playing away against a top counter attacking team in all of Europe! Arsene Wenger deserves a lot of credit for sticking with his attacking free flowing possession based football away from home against Chelsea. The final score line doesn’t matter at all! The important thing is that Arsenal did not stop playing their brand of football right to the end. I am sure that all Arsenal players and fans were extremely proud about that and celebrated like they won a trophy or something!”

In the end, the fan said that tactics do not mean anything if it does not involve free flowing attacking football. “The only tactics that makes a game good to watch are those that get employed in a possession based attacking game. Everything else is just simply unacceptable. Shame on all the teams who employ other tactics to beat possession based attack minded teams! If you want to beat them, beat them with free passing tiki-taka football which is very impressive to watch. Otherwise, just don’t play and bore us with defensive displays stifling even the best attacking teams in Europe! That is just unacceptable!”

Arbit, Arsenal, Bangalore, Chelsea, India, Manchester United, media, Mediocrity, My sense of Humour, Rant, Serious Writing

Narendra Modi reminds me of Manchester United

Being half way around the planet from all the NaMo and RaGa and MaBa and ArKe waves during the election campaign, I have had little to no direct exposure to the ground realities in India. All my ‘information’ came from Facebook status messages, newspaper headlines quoting politicians out of context, memes, satire posts on Faking News and some input from my parents who are seeing all this first hand in Bangalore. So in order to get real information, I have had to make additional effort to look through the biased media, read a very long list of ‘expert’ opinions on both sides of the story, find compilation of statistics on so many issues that are being debated and of course, frame my own opinion at the end. In any case, the general gist of what I am hearing is this:

Screw Mario. Here comes NaMo

There is this NaMo dude who is the Uber Dude and who is expected to simply win the next election. Then there is RaGa who is going all out to let people know he has an IQ less than Timmy. New kid on the block ArKe is trying all in his power to just play spoilsport. Didi MaBa just wants to run for elections. The Left parties – wait, do they still exist?

Already the next Prime Minister of India

The common thread running through all the bits and pieces of information I am getting is not regarding RaGa, ArKe or Didi. It is almost exclusively about NaMo. But before I get to that, a little bit of football.

When I started watching football, it took me a while to start supporting Chelsea. Everyone around me was either a Manchester United fan or an Arsenal fan. The Arsenal fans were mostly proud of the whole ‘youth development’ ideal that the club apparently stood for. All good. The Manchester United fans on the other hand were mostly proud of their trophy collection and were generally branded as glory hunters. I get it. Every fan wants the sport team he supports to win trophies on a regular basis. It is a very natural state of mind.

But what was different with United fans was the unquestioned glorification of the club and everything associated with it. Most of the fans were convinced that Manchester United was the only true club in England. They would quote the rich history associated with the club and also point to the massive trophy collection. They would also point to one Sir Alex Ferguson as a ruthless winner who would stop at nothing to win trophies – and all the fans were proud of his long tenure at the club. But it didn’t stop there. United was considered to be a team that was beyond criticism. Going a step further, no other team was considered to be a valid team to support. If you were new to football and were still looking for a team to choose to root for, you would be made to believe that you had no choice. You would be made to believe that Man United were the only team worth supporting and it was some kind of a default choice.

United was also the club which had the largest fan base (and still does) in India and Asia. There were definitely reasonable United fans here and there that I have gotten to know over the years but for the most part most of them were just plain cocky about it. They just refused to even entertain the idea that the club was anything less than just the best damn club on the planet. There would never be any admittance of any imperfections in any of the club’s aspects. Nobody could level any amount of criticism without getting a good amount of backlash from its supporters. Moreover, supporters of all other clubs were looked down upon as if they did not deserve to be a fan.

All this inevitably led to a lot of distaste among a lot of fans who supported other clubs – including myself. So much so, that there was a fair amount of hate brewing against United. These people were our friends who we got drunk with and whom I am still in touch with. But the dislike and hate that was brewing was directed more at the club than at the supporters. Sure the schadenfreude that we experienced whenever we saw United lose grew exponentially. But the important thing to note was the strict polarization that Manchester United’s image had created. You either fully embraced it and considered it to be the flawless club ever, or you considered that to be the most vile, cocky, exaggerated, pretentious, falsely publicized, all powerful, corrupt sports organization in the world. There was almost nothing in between. And all this was a creation not of the club. (I am sure the club wouldn’t have wanted it this way). But this big divide was really a creation of the supporters.

The Panacea all Indians have been waiting for

And now I see the same exact thing happening with NaMo in India. He is considered untouchable and beyond criticism from the eyes of his supporters. There is so much pro-Modi rhetoric that there seemed to be little that he could not accomplish. He is treated as the solution to all problems. There is not a single ounce of criticism that can be thrown at him without ten counter responses coming from his supporters. (In the eyes of the supporters, they feel they are right because they are offering the statistically proven, reasonable response to a guy who is just making wild accusations against Modi). He is considered to have zero imperfections and his supporters quote the ‘development’ that has taken place in Gujarat over the course of more than a decade as proof of his awesomeness. And just like United fans sing the ‘Glory Glory Man United’ chant, there is now also a NaMo NaMo (and many more apparently) chant/song that all the Modi supporters consider their war cry. There is even a Modi-Brigade that you can join by giving a missed call or something.

All this isolation from criticism, unquestioned glorification of his past achievements and a level of expectations never before associated with an Indian politician have inevitably generated a strong anti-Modi fan base – just like it happened with United. Endless arguments and debates – both online and offline, opinion pieces from every Tom, Dick, Harry and his brother-in-law, articles listing statistics that prove the point each side of the argument is trying to make (never mind that they contradict themselves) – all have contributed heavily to the strong polarization of the Modi image.

The Rise of the Indian Youth or the beginning of a new Hitler Youth – depending on whom you ask

 

You are either a strong supporter and think he is the panacea all Indians have been waiting for, or you think he is the nightmare scenario waiting to happen where he ends up becoming India’s Hitler creating a Hitler Youth organization equivalent and there will be a genocide in his first month in office. The stronger the isolation and glorification, higher is the criticism and hate. Higher the criticism and hate, more is the isolation and glorification. It is like a feedback loop which just feeds one off the other but they both grow in size and content. And just like United, all this is a making of the supporters. Modi for one would have never wanted this divide. Part of it, admittedly, can be attributed to the hate against the UPA Govt and our current impotent PM. But most of the responsibility of this rests on the supporters.

I suppose there is a cut off point beyond which there would be no significant growth of pro-Modi or anti-Modi rhetoric. Perhaps that point will be reached after he is elected PM. Or Not. I for one can only hope that his supporters and haters can get to a more reasonable level of opinion. The worst outcome of this would be an American styled Democrat-Republican divide.

If you have not been able to figure out yet, this post is nothing more than an observation. It is not a criticism, support or judgment of anyone involved – from the politicians to the avid supporters and haters. It is merely a perspective which I have been looking through for a while. A lot of Modi and Man United supporters will inevitably disagree with me and some will even offer detailed explanations of their disagreement which are supposed to be interpreted as their idea of reason. First of all, do check out this thing called the Backfire Effect. Secondly, if you have you gone as far as trying to dispute what I have pointed out, you have already proven my point. So just calm the fuck down and think about it for a while.

When did an Indian Politician ever become so cool that he had his own Merchandise?

In all seriousness, I personally want to see Modi in the PM office and am really curious what this guy is all about. And at this point, I offer no response to speculation or the possibility of a genocide happening in India as a result of his election. But really, considering his competition is a circus clown in a politician’s disguise…..

…well you get it.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Serious Writing, The things that happen only to ME..., Thoughts

Confessions of a Chelsea Fan: How I came about supporting Chelsea

When one begins to like and follow a particular sport, the first immediate, important and binding choice that he is forced to make is that of choosing a particular team to root for. Who you decide to root for, however, can and will go a long way in determining your mental state every weekend (and many mid-weeks)  for the rest of your existence. Your expectations and aspirations will largely be a function of the team you decide to dedicate all your energy, passion and commitment to – week in week out – for the rest of your life. Not to forget how often you get to win the bragging rights or feel awesome watching THAT look on your friend’s face when his team loses (- very important)!  Also to be kept in mind, is that there is strictly no jumping ship, and if you do jump ship, you will forever be treated as an outcast. So you see, making that one choice is perhaps as important , if not more, as choosing your life partner. Well, come to think of it, you can still change your life partner without being treated as an outcast! There is really little doubt that this one decision or choice  really does go a long long way in dictating the level of happiness in your life.

When it comes to football (if you are in America, it is still football – the other game is Hand-Egg), the first tournament everyone talks about (and rightfully so) is the Barclays Premier League or the English Premier League – arguably the best league in the world, both in terms of quality of football AND the popularity. And when you first begin to watch the sport and realize you like it so much that you have begun to watch it week in and week out, you also understand that it is now time for you to pick a club to support. And one of the factors strongly influencing that choice is going to be – your friends circle.

Everyone likes to be accepted in their friends circle and nobody likes to be treated as the odd man out. And so, for the most part, any newcomer to the sport almost inevitably ends up choosing the team his friends have been supporting. This facilitates the newcomer to feel one among the crowd, allowing him to share the SAME feelings as the rest of his group – irrespective of whether the team wins or loses. And really, who doesn’t like to belong to a group with similar interests?

And when it comes to the BPL, there are really only so many teams you can support without subscribing to a higher risk of feeling crappy every weekend. As of today, those teams are Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and to some extent Tottenham. Any other team and, as pointed out, you run the risk of feeling depressed every other weekend for the rest of your life. So unless you live in England and near one of those mid-table clubs, or your great great grandfather did, it is highly likely that your friends support one of those few above mentioned clubs. And so will you.

Back in the day when I started watching football regularly (it was early 2003), I was surrounded by people who either supported Arsenal or Manchester United. At that time I tried to find out which club I would perhaps enjoy supporting. During my subsequent conversations with those fans, one thing became fairly clear.

There are many ‘reasons’ that are provided by passionate and over-enthusiastic football fans as to why one should support the club THEY do.

Chelsea FC

If you spoke to a Manchester United fan, you would learn that he supports the club for its ‘rich history’, great players, great culture of ‘winning trophies’ and also because they had the greatest manager in the world – Sir Alex Ferguson. He will also make sure to point out that United is the only valid club to support – again, for the same reasons – and that other clubs have no history whatsoever. And that this fact, for some reason that is never really mentioned, automatically makes ALL other clubs ‘unfit’ to support. And if you look around, you will find every Tom, Dick and Harry mouthing off self righteous praises in favor of United, completely convinced that all other fans are not supporting a ‘real’ club. Oh! And of course, you will also be subjected to that inevitable chant: “Glory Glory Man United!”

Now if you spoke to an Arsenal fan, you would be subjected to this inevitable lecture on how Arsenal plays the best, most entertaining, free flowing, passing football in the league. And that Arsenal is the only club that follows the sacred philosophy of investing and developing youngsters from their teenage and moulding them into world class stars. You would also be told about  a particular Frenchman by name Arsene Wenger and his affinity to get young French teenagers into his squad. You might even get the impression that Arsenal is the proverbial underdog trying to make it big with limited resources. (And in all fairness, it is true to an extent). The Arsenal fan essentially tries to convince you that even though Arsenal does not have the ‘habit’ of winning trophies, it is still the ONLY club fit for supporting because of the way the club is run.

At the end of the day, you have two sets of fans, each supporting either United or Arsenal – and who strongly JUSTIFY why they do so. In all honesty, I haven’t met a single fan so far of either club who has not told me WHY he supports them. And perhaps THAT was the reason I never really developed a liking to either of them. I just could not wrap my head around the idea of having to justify my choice of team to support.

 And so, back in early 2003, I never really liked either team, which meant I took turns deciding which team I hated more – United or Arsenal. (In fact, I clearly recall an event back in my Pre-University years (in 2003) when I was asked to participate in a class march which would feature a flag of our own design. And due to the fact that there were more United fans than Arsenal fans in my class, it was decided that the class flag would more or less resemble the Manchester United symbol. When I got to know about this, I simply refused to participate in the march – as a matter of general principle). But I digress.

Going back to 2003, there was this bunch of young lads just going about their business trying to finish as high as possible in the table. A spot in the Champions League was considered to be the target to aim at. And they calmly secured 4th place and eventually did make it to the UCL. These lads wore blue shirts and shorts and they had never heard of anyone by name Roman Abromovich. And neither had I. They just seemed happy playing their football and to have qualified for the Champions League. These young lads played for Chelsea FC and I was just happy supporting them.

When I was asked why I chose to support Chelsea, I realized I didn’t really have an answer. But then, in just a few months time, I would learn that the answer would be forced down upon me – whether it was true or not. And it probably had to do with a certain Russian going by the name of Abromovich who decided to spend a small fortune in building the club.

Sure, along with a billionaire bank rolling the club came good players, managers and even trophies. But the package also inevitably came with a branding. And the branding said that ALL Chelsea fans were ‘the new breed’ who were in existence only because they have a billionaire bank rolling the club’s finances. And then suddenly I was pushed into the tricky situation of having to JUSTIFY why that was NOT true!

Since then, life as a Chelsea fan has been fairly interesting. The Russian has not left and so hasn’t the branding. Sure Manchester City fans now seem to have taken over the spotlight – but I am still told that I am not supporting a ‘REAL club’! There have been a lot of ups and downs but an eventful ride nonetheless.

In my next post, I intend to write about how it has been since. All the arguments about which club is better – both online and offline- along with all the memorable and forgettable moments I had to go through and the subsequent not-so-amicable ‘conversations’ with fans of other clubs. And also more on the short term and long term consequences of the branding. All that in my next post.

Till then, KTBFFH!

Arsenal, Fake Football News, Fake News, My sense of Humour, Satire, Serious Writing

News from 2020: Arsene Wenger still unable to find ‘Right Player’ to buy.

Entering his 25th year in charge of Arsenal FC, Arsene Wenger has released a statement that he is still trying to find ‘the right players’ to spend his money on. In a statement released to the press, Wenger said:

“It is imperative that I find the right players who will fit into my system of playing. I am ready to spend $30-40 million if I find the right player. The fans want someone who is experienced and proven. So we have been looking for the right player, who is also experienced and proven,  for about 10 years now but with not much success.  We will continue to look for these players because otherwise there is no point in spending money on players without quality.”

Arsene Wenger knows what he wants.

Arsene Wenger, it must be noted, has been looking to strengthen his squad since the 2010-11 season that started the downfall of the club. In spite of selling Fabregas and Nasri for a sum close to $70 million, Arsene Wenger did not make any purchases that summer which eventually lead to the team finishing a dismal 10th in the league. It should be noted that Arsenal are still yet to win a trophy since the FA Cup all those years back in 2005.  After the 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford towards the end of that transfer window, Arsene Wenger had maintained his intention to spend money only on the ‘right player.’ Though he did bid for many quality players in this time, all his bids were in the range of $ 5-12 million, which does not seem to have worked even once so far. It appears that Mr. Wenger is a very strong willed human being as he continues to believe in that philosophy to this day.

Ever since Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri left the club for greener pastures (read more trophy winning probabilities), there has been a steady outflux of budding stars in their early twenties heading out to different clubs every year. All of them appeared to have developed the intention and desire to win trophies at some stage in their Arsenal career and refused to sign contract extensions, thus forcing Wenger to sell them.

The list of people who have left the Arsenal ranks, since 2010, after spending their teenage years under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger is pretty impressive. Theo Walcott, Van Persie, Alex Song are among many others who have left the club in the past 10 years. In fact, players like Carl Jenkinson, Jack Wilshere, Frimpong etc, who were just in their late teens and still learning the nuances of the game then, developed into star players under Arsene Wenger. They also left the club after they realized themselves that they were star players.

In all those years, Arsene Wenger continued to spend money on young teenage strikers and groomed them to become star forwards. As of July 2020, Arsene Wenger has signed a total of 58 teenage strikers since that 2010-11 season. 54 of these strikers have now matured into world class strikers and attacking midfielders and have moved on to different clubs and have won many trophies. Of the grand total of 4 defenders he had signed in the same period, all of them have left the club. Arsene Wenger has not signed a single goalkeeper in that same period. Wojciech Szczęsny continues to be the first choice goalkeeper today.

There have been a few significant consequences due to this continuing phenomenon at Arsenal FC.

First of all, Arsene Wenger was awarded a special Lifetime achievement award by UEFA for “spotting and nurturing young talent and then grooming them to become world class stars.” Michel Platini (yes, he is still the UEFA President), the UEFA President, had awarded the trophy to Wenger in a special ceremony that also felicitated Sir Alex Ferguson with the “Manager-who-has-served-at-a-single-club-so-long-that-nobody-remembers-when-he-first-started” award. Arsene Wenger accepted the award declaring his desire to continue running the club exactly the same way in the future too.

Secondly, Arsenal FC has been awarded the title of the Best Feeder Club in the history of Club Football. This award was constituted by all the teams who have directly benefitted from the continuous supply of world class players coming out of Arsenal with a desire to win trophies. A complete list of the teams essentially includes all trophy winning teams in the past 10 years from England, Germany, Italy, Spain and France. It should be noted that some of the Arsenal players left the club to join Championship clubs, Segunda division or Serie B clubs in order to win trophies. All have been successful.

Thirdly, Arsene Wenger recently declared that, as a result of continued selling over the past decade, his available transfer budget currently stands at about $ 780 million. As revealed earlier, he has made many bids in the range of $5-12 million for what he considers as quality players, but none of them have been successful. In fact, on the few occasions that Mr. Wenger has indeed bid in excess of $30 million for players, all the players immediately signed a contract extension with their club as they believed that they had a better chance to win trophies at their own clubs than at Arsenal.

Later in the day, when Mr. Wenger was talking to reporters, he was asked what exactly constituted his ‘right player’. He responded:

“You see its not just about the ability of the player to adapt to and understand my style of playing. He also needs to have the right attitude. For instance, I cannot spend money on players who want to come to Arsenal to win trophies. That is out of the question. That is why I sign a lot of teenagers – because they do not yet have a sense of success with trophies. I get to groom them to stay that way so that they  stick around when they become star players. But nowadays, they somehow get to know about winning trophies and want to leave the club.”

“So you see, I am ready to spend a lot of money on players who are good, experienced and more importantly, should not have won any trophies before and should have no intention and ambition whatsoever of winning trophies in the future. Arsenal FC is not a club that aims to win trophies. We just try to play beautiful flowing football. Our fans have understood that perfectly well and have stuck behind us all these years. We are not worried about our fans. They will continue to support us. So right now, we are still looking for that ‘right player’ who satisfies all these criteria. I am sure we will find him someday.”

Arsenal, Chelsea, Fake Football News, Fake News, Football, My sense of Humour, Premier League, Satire

Breaking News: All Football Players to now get Injuries Prior to Internationals

In a unanimous move, all the Football players around the world have decided to get injured just prior to the next round of International games in order to avoid getting injured during the internationals. This decision was taken immediately after the latest round of International friendlies and Euro qualifiers and comes close on the heels of a number of players getting injured while on national duty.

Theo Walcott, one of the many players to be injured, seems to have taken the initiative to bring together all fellow football players who face a long time on the sidelines after getting injured in the internationals. “This just cannot carry on. I am sick and tired of getting injured during international matches. Last year I broke my shoulder and this year it is my ankle! Now I have to just sit and watch while lesser performing players take my place at Arsenal. Also, now I will not have enough playing time under my belt to make sure that Capello chooses me for the next International!”

Walcott is particularly disappointed that his good form for Arsenal came to a premature end with this injury. “The timing could not have been worse. I was fresh from not going to South Africa and I began to score goals and make assists with total ease. And then this happens.”

Walcott says he hit upon the idea of getting injured prior to the internationals while he was under the influence of drugs in the hospital. “I was just sitting there, getting my painkiller drips, and then I had what alcoholics refer to as ‘a moment of clarity'” said Walcott, sporting a smug for making the Pulp Fiction reference. When none of the journalists cared to make any comment, Walcott continued, “You see its very simple. All you have to do to not get injured during an international game is to not play in that game at all! And a foolproof way to get that done is to get yourself injured right before the game!”

Asked if he hit upon this idea after watching fellow England team mates Lampard and Terry pull out of the team with injuries, Walcott was quick to reply. “Of course! I thought it was obvious. In fact, I now feel I should have thought about this much earlier- you know, like BEFORE the game perhaps” Walcott said finishing the line with a wink.

Fierce rivals Tottenham also had their own Walcott story with Jermain Defoe being ruled out for 6 weeks after getting injured while on England duty. The striker has been in great form for his club and echoed the sentiments of Walcott.

“This has to end. I have made up my mind! Next time I will get injured BEFORE the game!” Asked how he plans to implement his plan, Defoe said, “That would be easy! All you have to do is pick up a small injury while playing the last game for your club before the international. You know-like pick up what is referred to commonly as a “small knock”. Something not too serious to worry about but at the same time big enough to be out for a week or maximum two.”

When asked if even he was borrowing the idea from Lampard and Terry, he replied, “Yeah! I mean look at Lamps and John. They have made the best of their international time! Lamps missed a penalty just to ‘show’ that he was perhaps injured. Then he scheduled his operation immediately after which he conveniently has two weeks to recover and be fit in time to face West Ham! That is just totally awesome don’t you think? I mean just look at what he did! He used the international games break to become more fit and healthy! While on the other hand, look at me- totally messed up for the next 2 months! There are really some things you have to learn from that fella! I guess its better late than never!”

Among other players to get injured on international duty was Alexander Hleb, the Birmingham City new signing who was looking to revive his career at St. Andrews after being relegated to the bench at Barcelona. “This is not really something new to me really. I am injured now. The only difference now is that instead of sitting on the bench helplessly and watching my team play, I will now be sitting on a hospital bed helplessly and watching my team play. So you see not much of a difference there. I am not that disappointed.”

When informed about the grand plan to get injured right before the internationals, Hleb was ecstatic- “Woah! That is a kick ass idea! I should have thought about beforehand! This way I will at least get to play SOME football! Awesome!”

Other victims from the latest round of International games include Per Mertesacker, Michael Dawson and Dirk Kuyt.

Kuyt‘s injury apparently came up from his attempting a bicycle kick during training for Holland. Keeping up with his image of working extremely hard (measured by the copious amounts of sweat he is so keen on displaying towards the end of each game) while consistently producing nothing (apart from the occasional scavenging), he appeared to put in a lot of effort while attempting his bicycle kick and then put in a lot more effort to land awkwardly on his shoulder, thereby dislocating it. The fact that this was done during training when it was totally unnecessary and the fact that nobody cared where the ball went anyway undermines Kuyt’s intent to  distract everyone from his lack of productivity by showing them his hard-working nature.

“Next time I shall surely get injured while attempting a bicycle kick during a Liverpool training!” said an exhalted Kuyt after coming to know about the scheme.

When confronted by these claims, Carlo Ancelotti was quick to defend his players. “What the players do with their private lives is none of my business. Its upto them and as long as they are training well and playing well, I really don’t care!”

When pointed out that the question was not about John Terry‘s private affairs, Ancelotti responded by shouting in Italian at his Italian translator. Then he said, “I totally deny that! Lampard and Terry are the greatest professionals in this game! It was just a coincidence that the operation had to be done just as the Internationals started. It is a recurring problem. So maybe he will need another operation soon, maybe sometime in November.”

When a reporter told him that that is the time when the next round of international matches are going to be played, Ancelotti replied, “It is just a coincidence like I said. Maybe Terry will get one more knock just before the break. Maybe Ashley Cole will also join in the party. Who knows? Can you predict the future?” As he began to leave the reporters, he was caught on camera having a secret laugh and muttering “He he he… Those reporters they will believe anything! He he he…!”

However, Arsene Wenger was not in a mood for any laughter. “This is just totally ridiculous. Last time it was Van Persie and this time it is Walcott! International matches my arse! Now I am going to personally make sure that ALL my players, without exception, will get injured just before the next round of international games. Of course, we will make sure that all those injuries are genuine and that all of them occur under safe circumstances like our training ground. After all, we don’t want our players trying to get injured and be subjected to another Eduardo or Ramsey kind of tackle do we? We will not break any laws and will show real injuries to all our players. Our medical team is already working on the most efficient way of getting injured just for the right amount of time. Many people refer to our squad as the ‘injured Arsenal Squad’. If these injuries keep happening, then the ‘injured’ part will become redundant! The only way out is this new scheme!”

All across the world, Club managers are voicing their dissent towards the treatment meted out to their players while on international duty. Bayern Munich chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge wants insurance against all players who go on to represent their national teams. All other club managers too have unanimously agreed to get the players injured in an optimal way for best results. Some clubs have even gone on to open a separate department that deals with this responsibility aptly naming it “The Department of Optimal, Voluntary and Controlled Injury”.

England Manager Fabio Capello on the other hand is not amused with this grand scheme that threatens to make him lose his job. When confronted about the scheme, Capello shot back, “Let me see how they will do it! The people who do it are too dumb to see the consequences.”

He elaborated further, “You see all these youngsters like Walcott, Defoe and Dawson continuously make statements indicating their desire to play for the national team and how they plan to do that by playing good for their clubs. So they will perhaps continue to play very good for their clubs  hoping to get a call up to the England squad. And then get injured just before the internationals. And this they do so that they can play more club football to impress me to pick them for the next England game! And then they get injured just before that game! And then the cycle repeats! What nonsense is this? Dont these kids realize that they will never be able to play this way-ever! It is like they are -what do you call it- ah yes! Its like they are chasing the carrot! Of course, it is like they are chasing a carrot which they themselves are carrying! Idiots!”

Whatever maybe the case, it is definitely going to be interesting to see how this whole new scheme pans out.

Football, Serious Writing

The Arsenal fan’s Tipping Point

First of all, let me first fully clarify that I am NOT an Arsenal fan. In fact, I am a very passionate Chelsea supporter (right from the pre-Abromovich era if you are concerned). Now before you go all “Rediff-Comment”-ish over me and begin to declare me guilty of sacrilege, I first suggest you actually READ the rest of the post and THEN form whatever opinion you want. The objective of this post is not to be judgmental or pass comments on the Arsenal fan or the team or on Arsene Wenger. Instead, I aim to go into the typical Arsenal fan’s mind and see WHAT it is about the team that drives them to support it the way they do. And also, as the title suggests, I want to know when, if ever, the Arsenal fan experiences the Tipping Point. So Read on.

Of the many Arsenal fans I have come across over the past many years, most of them belong to one predominant kind. And that is the kind that I am going to be exploring in this post. And again, before you get all short tempered over me, let me assure you that I totally respect each fan’s choice for supporting whichever team they want to. I mean seriously, what fun would it be if everybody supported only the team that you support? But I digress.

So why do Arsenal fans support the club the way they do? But before that, I believe the question to be asked is what is it that drives an Arsenal fan to continuously support the team in spite of its inability to land silverware? The answer to this is a combination of many factors-the first of which is the brand of football they play. And I have absolutely no qualms in admitting that they play the most free flowing passing football among almost all of the Premier League teams (and perhaps next only to Barcelona in Europe). It is always a delight to watch a game of football being played with such fluid like motion and ease. Maybe there is a pass too many at the end of it, but lets not go into that. Now couple this brand of football with perhaps the most vibrant and productive youth policies in all of Premier League. And again, I do not contest it here. The Gunners’ youth policy has been in place for as long as I can remember and it has almost always generated players to watch out for. Add to this picture a man like Arsene Wenger- someone who generates some minimum respect among any football fan whether they like to admit or not. He is someone who has never lost his faith in the policies he has helped put in place. There is something about this man that makes people stop and listen to what he has to say. And my respect for him got cemented when I saw him in an interview with John Dykes. In response to what it is that drives him to keep going as a manager of a football team, this is what he said:

There are times every now and then when the team really comes together and clicks as a unit. Those moments when the team clicks and everything falls into place, the football that comes out as a result is truly beautiful. And it is that joy that drives me to keep going no matter what.

I havent quoted him verbatim but that is what he effectively said. And the way he said it, you know for a fact he means it. And when you realize that, there is really no way you cannot respect this man.  And consequently, when you have such a man as the manager of the club you support, your support can only get stronger.

The combination of the brand of football, the vibrant youth policy in place since ages and having a man like Arsene Wenger as the manager of your team will certainly drive any football enthusiast to WANT to support a team like Arsenal. But these factors only explain why anyone would WANT to support a team like Arsenal. It does not, however, explain the WAY the Arsenal fans support their club. And frankly speaking, it is not too hard to understand the reason for this as well.

You see, times are changing in the Premier League and in Europe in general. There is a lot more money involved nowadays than what it was a few years ago. Transfer deals worth $25 million are pretty common place  now and you have a lot of clubs ready to pay a lot more for key players. And so in an environment in which more and more clubs are ready to pay for key players to make an impact on their team’s performances, Arsenal remains one of the very few teams which still have their policies centered around youth academies, low player wages and low budget transfers and at the same time keeping their faith in this system to produce the results on the pitch. It almost gives one the feeling of a “David vs Goliath” situation: with Arsenal at one end making a title challenge with very limited resources-young players and a coach showing full faith in them- and all other clubs mounting a title challenge with significantly larger resources, bloated transfer kitties and player wages at the other end. And in fact, for some Arsenal fans, this almost translates into a good vs evil battle.

In the end, it essentially gives a feeling that Arsenal is the last remaining hope for earning success through, what the Arsenal fan sees as, the fair way. And THIS, is what I  believe gives the Arsenal fan his/her identity. And taking this a bit further, one can even say that the Arsenal fan desires to win and feel good about the win BECAUSE of the way the club is run-which I believe is totally fair and good as long as the Arsenal fan keeps this passion to himself and does not judge other fans on the basis of the way other clubs are run.

Make no mistake. It is not all sugar coated as I may have described.  I have also met and interacted with quite a few Arsenal fans who mistake their arrogance for passion and believe that Arsenal is the only club worthy of support because of the way it is run and the kind of football that they play. And I sincerely despise this. (Of course it would be totally unfair of me if I didn’t say that every club has supporters like these judging other teams by their own parameters). The way the club is run and the kind of football they play is a good reason for supporting the club; but it cannot and should not be the ONLY reason for supporting a team of one’s choice. I am not going to stereotype the Arsenal fan that I have described in the paragraph as I know there are many more genuine fans around.

The Arsenal story is almost like a fairy tale. It is not at all difficult to imagine a movie being inspired by any success Arsenal might come up with in the near future. Think of it:

One football club having very low resources and trying to be self sufficient challenging for the title along with a horde of other teams with a lot more resources and big name players; players getting injured every now and then but then they keep fighting and keep in pace with the other clubs; they lose their momentum somewhere in the middle and noone gives them a chance of success; but the coach sticks to his players and they mount a late title challenge and eventually upsetting all big clubs to emerge victorious!!

Definitely makes for one heck of a movie surely! Everybody loves to root for the underdogs. The point I am trying to make in all of this is that the reason why an Arsenal fan supports his club and the explanation as to the WAY he supports it  is a combination of the way the club is run, the manager and the type of football that they play. Which brings me to my next question:

HOW MUCH LONGER IS THE ARSENAL FAN READY TO WAIT FOR THEIR NEXT SILVERWARE?

It has been what 4-5 seasons since Arsenal won anything? Every season, the Arsenal fan hopes to see his team win some silverware thereby hoping to reinforce their faith and belief in their players and manager and to also validate their reason for supporting Arsenal. But as has been the case for a while, there has been no returns for their support. And the situation does not look extremely promising this season either. But perhaps an Arsenal fan may differ here and I wont enter into a debate there. Either way, the question to be asked here is how long before the young, “talented” players with “promising potential” come of age and begin to make the necessary impact? Or in other words, when are the youth policies, the system, the very WAY the club is run, begin to pay dividends? Continued failure of the present system and crop of players to bring in silverware will no doubt come under criticism from the fans themselves. But I am not interested in the criticism. What I am interested in is something even more fundamental. Which brings me to what I have mentioned in the title of the post (finally!).

If the club continues to bring in no trophies, how much longer is the Arsenal fan going to wait till he calls for a change in the very way the club is run? How many more trophy less seasons is it going to take for the Arsenal fan to call for big name signings or proven players? How many seasons with no silverware is it going to take for the Arsenal fan to call for replacing Arsene Wenger? Or in other words:

What is the Arsenal fan’s TIPPING POINT?

Will the hope of the present players gaining more experience every season prove sufficient to keep supporting the club for the same reason they have been doing so far? Will almost-winning-the-title feeling prove enough to continue to support it forever? Even if star players who have been brought up in the club leave (Cesc for example), will the Arsenal fan continue to have faith in the system? Star players leave, new “talents” are spotted and are played without resulting in any silverware, they gain more experience and become good, and are bought by some high profile club, Arsenal then begins to look for new “talents” and the vicious cycle begins all over again.

So you see, what I am interested is right at the root of the Arsenal fan’s reason and pride for supporting his club. What I have written here can and should not be looked at as criticism. This is more of an enquiry and curiosity into the psyche of the Arsenal fan. I have not made any judgment or passed any unwarranted comments here.

And so if you still find the strong urge to post profane “Chelsea supporters have no right to say anything about Arsenal” type comments, consider yourself to be the lowest form of the football fan. Make no mistake. I will allow those comments! After all, if thats going to start a thread, my blog only gains in popularity!