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16th Dec 2019

How to fix Arsenal Football Club in nine and a half easy steps

Kyle Picknell

Oh, what’s to be done with Arsenal Football Club?

The ennui continues. Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat at the bloodied, throbbing hands of Kevin De Bruyne and Manchester City on Sunday was hardly surprising, but even the harshest critics of The Team Formerly Known as The Invincibles will have been taken aback by the manner in which they lost the game. They were, other than Bernd Leno, ten confused fawns washed away by the ultra-high beam headlights of the occasion. And the opposition. They were, other than Bernd Leno, somewhere between hopelessly tentative and helplessly chaotic. They were, other than Bernd Leno, so unapologetically, unashamedly Arsenal.

How exactly do you fix that, when it seems everyone associated with the club – from directors to coaches to players to mascot – seems corrupted by the same all-consuming listlessness, the same basic lack of desire, and fight, and spirit?

Well, first of all, you offer up Gunnersaurus as a blood sacrifice to the football gods. Then you do some other things. They might help, they might not, but hey. We’ve got to try something here. It’s getting embarrassing. I almost feel sorry for them.

Offer Gunnersaurus as a blood sacrifice

Not sure what it is about Gunnersaurus, the rotund, mopey dinosaur dressed exactly like that kid who would come to school on own clothes day in full football kit, avec shinpads, that gives off such an overwhelming feeling of dejection. Oh, no, wait. It’s everything in that last line. That’s exactly what it is. Anyway, what I’m saying is, and please do hear me out here, is get him on a physio’s stretcher, march him out to the centre circle at the Emirates and offer him up to the football gods as penance. Penance for what? For being Arsenal. You don’t necessarily need to harvest his dino organs and hold them aloft whilst chanting a hymn about former right-back Lauren, but it would help, in my opinion. It certainly wouldn’t do you any harm.

Do not, whatever you do, appoint Freddie Ljungberg as your permanent manager until the end of the season

Thankfully, for their sake, this one already looks as though it is being avoided. Let me ask you something. What did Freddie Ljungberg do, exactly, to deserve being appointed as the manager of *checks notes* the ninth richest football team in the world? A team that, ostensibly, could hire much pretty much anyone they liked. Sure, he used to play for Arsenal when they were good and, sure, he looks phenomenal in a pair of briefs, and sure, it’s only temporary. But that’s suddenly enough, is it? He’s just a bloke! A really handsome bloke! Have you seen Massimiliano Allegri’s trophy cabinet? I don’t care that he doesn’t speak English, parking a lorry full of money outside his house in that hope that he’s feeling bored when he looks out of the window is a far better recruitment strategy than just settling for a semi-competent youth coach.

If it is, in fact, Mikel Arteta who is handed this glistening silver dinner cloche with a steaming turd inside of a football club, then good luck to him. I hope he knows what he’s getting himself in for. He wouldn’t however, be my recommendation for the job…

Hire Diego Simeone

Can you imagine? El Cholo, the least ‘Arsenal’ manager in the entire history of the football universe howling his squad into a tight, all-conquering, 1-0 shagging, defensive 4-4-2 shape? This… this is what I dream about. Simeone repeatedly and emphatically making his ‘cojones’ gesture to Mesut Özil the second he even thinks about drifting about aimlessly. Simeone shaving Guendouzi’s hair into a high and tight whilst he’s sleeping. Simeone turning Robert Samuel Holding into the new Diego Godin. It’s all Arsenal fans have ever wanted.

However, is Diego Simeone actually going to join Arsenal? No, not a chance. That’s the half step. Which brings me to…

Hire Sam Allardyce


Give Hector Bellerin the armband

GIVE HECTOR BELLERIN THE ARMBAND. GIVE IT TO HIM. Sorry. I need to stop shouting. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a great forward and arguably Arsenal’s only semi-consistent (nobody is consistent) high-end performer. But is he a leader? He is not. Does he actually care about the fortunes of Arsenal Football Club? I hate to say it but, again, he does not. Enter Hector, the 24-year-old heartthrob, fashionista and activist who has been at the club for eight years, happens to be good at football and really, genuinely gives a shit. About the planet, about society, about which earrings go with which shoes and about the Gunners, arguably most of all. It’s a no brainer, and even if it wasn’t, this is the appointment that would cause Piers Morgan the most personal unhappiness. It is, therefore the only one that should be made. Big Sam at the helm and Bellerin as skipper. Now we’re talking. Now we’re cooking with gas. Let us continue this long overdue revolution.

Buy an actual defensive midfielder and then buy several more

Remember Gilberto Silva? Remember what having an actual world-class defensive midfielder did for the rest of your team? No, not a Lucas Torreira type. Or a Granit Xhaka type. Or a Matteo Guendouzi type. An actual defensive midfielder. An enforcer. You know, like Francis Coquelin but if he was 20-30% better at actually playing football. Have you seen the impact Fabinho and Rodri have had this season? Find one for yourself and buy him, whatever the cost. After you’ve done that buy another one, just in case the first one goes a bit ‘Arsenal’ on you. Then a third, and maybe a fourth, just in case. You can never have too many defensive midfielders. Trust me on that. Especially if you’re Arsenal and your back four has all the integrity of Chuka Umunna.

Nationalise Nicolas Pepe

Look. He cost 72 million actual pounds. And there does seem to be quite a good player in there somewhere. Regardless – get him nationalised. Let’s distribute Nicolas Pepe into collective ownership and we can all get our money’s worth from him. Odd jobs around the house? Get Nicolas Pepe to do it. Complicated tax returns? Get Nicolas Pepe to do it. Dribbling straight into opposition players like a remote-controlled headless chicken operated by the lovechild of Allen Saint-Maximin and Adama Traore? Get. Nicolas. Pepe. To. Do. It.

(Not sure you can actually nationalise a footballer but the point still stands)

Stop supporters attending matches (this one shouldn’t actually be too hard to implement. You might not even need to ban them)

Part of the problem is the Arsenal fans themselves. This cannot be denied. If they can’t get behind a reasonably shit team (they can’t) and the reasonably shit team can’t be relied on to improve despite wavering support (they can’t) then simply remove the fans. Tell me having Arsenal play their home games at their Colney training ground with zero AFTV watchers in attendance wouldn’t immediately and drastically improve their performances. Because it would. Shkodran Mustafi is playing like a fucking world-beater once he doesn’t have a 35-year-old man who still goes by a nickname with a Z in telling him he’s a useless prick every five minutes from the stands. I promise you.

Whilst we’re at it, demolish the Emirates altogether

Remove the Emirates. Erase it. Smash it to rubble. It’s too grandiose, too spacious… too Arsenal. Arsenal were good at Highbury. Let’s get them back in more honest surroundings. Let’s make them earn it again. Put a wrecking ball, or Sead Kolašinac with hands grasped tight around a rope, right through the Emirates and get to work rebuilding it brick by brick by brick.

And finally: Sell everyone in the current first-team squad bar the youngsters, Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette and Bernd Leno

This is arguably the most drastic step to fixing Arsenal Football Club but I’d argue it’s the most necessary. You see, once you play for Arsenal, and suffer enough particular instances of ‘complete nonsense’ in an Arsenal shirt, it seems to bed beneath the skin. It’s almost bacterial, this listlessness that consumes them. This incessant ‘bottling of it’. It’s a stink you can’t wash out, the Arsenal, and I think too many of them have it. Somehow David Luiz had it before he even joined the club. Regardless, he has to go. As do Sokratis and Chambers and Mustafi. As does the entire rest of the squad bar those mentioned above, who are fighting valiantly against the dying of the light. Sell them all and let Big Sam rebuild this sorry, sorry club from the ground up. You know it makes sense. Deep down, you know it does.