A week and a season to prove money does not always buy success – A touch of the Old School and

Weekends like the one we’ve just had have been rare in modern day football.

We’re at a point now almost whereby whoever spends the most; wins. At times it really has seemed as simple as that.  Sometimes I feel like I no longer know who’s a good manager and who’s not?!  

So many managers today splash the cash at every opportunity they can – not that that’s not allowed of course, but if a manager has a bottomless pit, as it were, at his disposable then how difficult is it exactly to sit there and say: “Juan Mata’s a good player. Eden Hazard’s a good player.  Give ‘um what they want and get ’em!”

It’s not is it?  That’s not that hard to do.  OK, I understand you have to fit and integrate them into a specific system whereby you bring the best out of every player. That’s easier said than done. But again if you’ve got an infinite amount of money to spend to the point where you can go out and buy the best – the best being the best because they’re completely adaptable – then, well, it makes things ten times easier doesn’t it?!

In February 2011 West Bromwich Albion sacked Roberto Di Matteo and in doing so released this statement:

“This was the unanimous decision of the Football Club’s Board of Directors in light of a worrying sequence of results which has seen the Club lose 13 of their last 18 games in all competitions, winning only three.”

There is no doubt about it, three wins in 18 games is relegation stuff.  Fair enough.

Furthermore that statement went on to read:

“This has been a tough decision but we, as a Board, believe it is the right one to give the Club the best possible chance of remaining in the Barclays Premier League.”

Now, this suggests that the board were all in agreement that Di Matteo wasn’t the right man to keep them in the Premier League – or in other words, simply wasn’t good enough.  In fairness to them, it turned out to be the correct decision. Roy Hodgson replaced and they finished 11th and even managed one better the following season, securing a 10th-place finish before leaving to go on to take the England national job.  Their board then replaced Hodgson with Steve Clarke and they have continued to improve on last season yet again – as they currently sit in 8th place, five points clear of 10th with a game to play.

So whilst WBA have gone from strength to strength, what of Roberto Di Matteo?

Well, I’m not going to go into too much detail with what he later achieved – however, even his success wasn’t enough to keep him in a permanent job.  But again, do we really know whether he’s a good manager or not?  

Many of us awoke to the news this morning that Manchester City have ended Roberto Mancini’s tenure. Sacked last night despite winning the title last season and the FA Cup the year before that.

“Despite everyone’s best efforts, the Club has failed to achieve any of its stated targets this year, with the exception of qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League.”

Failed to achieve ‘any’ of its stated targets. So with that in mind you’d imagine Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak would have sat Mancini down at the start of the season and said that title redemption is a must. Along with a quarter-final European Cup appearance – or something along those lines. Too unrealistic? Or fair given the players and millions Mancini has at his disposal?!

Either way, Premier League runners-up, FA Cup runners-up, combined with a second successive woeful European Cup campaign obviously wasn’t enough to keep him in charge until the end of this season (the latter being the fundamental reason I’d imagine).

We started this season with Manchester City as title holders and Chelsea as European Cup holders; the two biggest spenders in the last five years.  So how refreshing was it to see a side such as Wigan Athletic triumph over evil as it were.  17 years previous they were finishing off a league campaign against Mansfield Town in the old Division Three.  Saturday was true Fairy Tale stuff.

There have been more incidences like these this season though. Swansea City for example, knocking Chelsea out the League Cup semi finals and going on to lift the trophy was too, refreshing. Bradford City making the final – alright, even if it was at our expense. So from a personal point of view it was incredibly tough to take, but in reality it’s a wonderful achievement and one of which we all would have appreciated a whole lot more had it not been for our December quarter final exit.

Incidentally, we have our own cup final to look forward to this evening whilst Wigan have their second.  If reports are true as we’re lead to believe, Roberto Martinez cut the after-match celebrations short and had them in early doors for training the following morning.  Make no mistake of it they will not go down without a fight.  We all know what happened when they visited The Emirates when they were scrapping for their lives last season, and I don’t expect things to be much different this time round with regards to their attitude and commitment either.  We have ourselves a contest, ladies and gentleman.  One of which we have to be fit, ready, and willing to go to battle for.

The table this week looks a little less healthy than it did last week.  Both the Russians and Spuds came from a goal down to win away and have subsequently put the pressure back on us going into this fixture.  In today’s game I much prefer having the points on the board than I do the game/s in hand but having said that; we’re Arsenal Football Club.  If you don’t like the pressure of representing a top club at top level then you shouldn’t be here.  I want to see every single one of our players holding onto their bottle with both hands, not just this evening but Sunday as well. These two fixtures will determine what level we’ll be going into next season on, what calibre of player we look to bring in over the summer and therefore whether we’ll be competing or not. It’s massive and it’s a game of which I have that nervous/excitement feel about.

A word on the other magical event which took place this weekend at Vicarage Road; Watford’s win over Leicester City.

Wow! Amazing wasn’t it?

For all the money, for all the egos, and everything else we dislike about today’s game; it’s experiences like these which firmly cement following football as one of the most incredibly emotional experiences you can be put through. Honestl
y, in what other walks of life would you find yourself experiencing complete and utter disparity one minute and euphoric jubilation the next – in the time it takes to read that sentence out loud. I couldn’t help watching what went on in the final few minutes over and over again, Sunday evening.

As a fan, it’s moments like those that we all want to experience and feel for ourselves. The penalty save, the follow up save, the touch and run down the opponents end, the cross, the nod down and of course, the belting volley which was hammered into the back of the net with a lorry load of force. What made it all the more special was that the celebration with the fans was just WOW! You want to be a part of that. You want your moments like that. That’s why we follow our clubs with such passion and intensity.

From an Arsenal perspective it was also nice to see Manuel Almunia playing such a crucial part and enjoying his moment as well. He’s a nice character – probably too nice to ever really succeed at the top, so it was great to see him smiling when the full time whistle blew. I always felt he was an alright keeper right up until he made a mistake. Once he did, he could never find it in him to rise above it and unfortunately for us, it was written all over his face on a gamely basis. But he’s happy now, he’s found his level, he’s vice-captain, he’s had a good season by all accounts and he’s had his heroic moment. Good luck to him.

Thank you for reading and I’m sure you’ll all agree, fingers crossed for tonight.


Scott Davis

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