wenger

Arsenal and the Painful Circle of Ogbanje

Ogbanje in Igbo mythology is a spirit child who takes the form of a human being, comes as a  child, lives a couple of months or a year or two, dies, gets born again, lives, dies in infancy again, tormenting its mother and family endlessly.

Ogbanje is the Yoruba equivalence of abiku. There are many today who believe this myth is more than mere myth. It is hard to argue with them because sometimes a child dies, they call in  a witch-doctor who cuts the child in the face, in the legs elsewhere before burying it. The next time the mother gives birth the baby comes in with all the mutilations of the previous child. Magic.

That is what Arsenal have become.

I have been a fan of Arsenal, I think, since 2002 and in these fifteen years I have seen Arsenal in its finest moments and in the last eight to ten years, I daresay, Arsenal is in their worst state. It is like a fish rotten in the head, for a die hard lover of fish, he can get the fish, eat its tail and middle but because the head is rotten, he cannot claim to have eaten the whole fish.

Arsenal have made top four every single year since 1997, they have won the FA Cup twice in eleven years, but because the head is rotten, they cannot get a complete season, every year they get humiliated and go home dissatisfied. They come back next year and like Ogbanje, they live to type.

Take a look:

Every single year since 2010 Arsenal have been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

Every year since 2004 (except for a few random years) Arsenal have started the season strongly then fizzle out in February and end up struggling for top four.

Arsenal is the only top club that has never won the champions league.

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Arsenal is the only big club in Europe that has never won the league in 13 years. Let’s put this in the right perspective.

Since Arsenal last won the league, Mourinho came to England from Porto, won two league titles, got sacked, went to Italy, won the treble, left, went to Spain, won the league, left, came to England and won another league.

Manchini came to Manchester City, won the league, got sacked. Pellegrini came, won the league, got sacked, Arsenal are still waiting.

The year Arsenal won the league last, Leicester City was relegated to the Championship. From the Championship, they got relegated to League One. They they got promoted to the Championship, got promoted to the Premiership, nearly got relegated, survived, then won the league last season (they may be relegated) and Arsenal are still waiting. For Godot.

Conte will win the premiership in his first trying. Wenger is the oldest serving manager in the league, he hasn’t won the league in his last 13 trying.

Wenger is the Problem

The argument in defense of Wenger in the early draught is that Arsenal is financially handicapped, moving to a new stadium and all that. But since 2012, Arsenal have spent heavily (and wisely) bringing Cazorla, Ozil, Monreal, Sanchez, Cech, Xhaka and Mustafi yet Arsenal still manage to fall short.

Look at the league winners in the last ten years. One on one, squad against squad, they are not all better than Arsenal’s last four season squads. Between 2007 and 2009 Manchester United won three consecutive  league titles with an average team. Manchester City winners in 2012 and 2014 are not great. And we all saw Leicester last year.

In four of the last ten years Arsenal boasted the best player in the League, Febregas, Van Persie and twice Sanchez, yet this didn’t materialise into the title. When other teams had the best player they won the league. Cristiano, Rooney, John Terry, Aguero, Marhez all shoudered their teams to success.

What is the problem of Arsenal?

Arsene Wenger.

Arsene Wenger is the only issue that has been present since Arsenal began to rotten.

Wenger is the rotten head.

What is the Problem With Wenger

Tactics.

His tactics are outdated. In fact, Wenger has no real tactics besides a formation and selecting the team. Against small clubs, once Arsenal is winning Wenger will substitute a forward player for a defender, to defend one-zero, there is no hunger to high in case of head to head and for morale.

He never makes changes till the 70th minute no matter how badly a player plays. He never changes formation in between a game. He never yells at the players to charge them up or correct a slump during a game. He would rather struggle with his zipper or complain to the fourth official.

Wenger will never drop a player performing poorly just to protect the prayers’ ego. Ozil. We saw this with Walcott, Gallas, Ramsey, Arteta, Mertasacker and, of recent, Petr Cech. He lacks the balls to make big decisions.

Again, Wenger has rewarded loyal or humble or cool headed players with a starting role even when it is ice clear they do not deserve to play. Imagine the Sunday school approach.

Wenger will never study a team and successfully beat them if they have a big coach or an excellent squad. Since 2006, Barcelona have knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League four times. Bayern Munich easily brush Arsenal aside. And you can count the number of times Arsenal have beaten Chelsea/Man United in the last ten years.

Wenger has never beaten Mourinho in a competitive match inside thirteen years.

Wenger always loses heavily against tactical teams. Take a look:

Against Ferguson, he lost 8-2 (2011).

Against Mourinho, he lost 6-0 (2014)

Against Guardiola, he lost 4-1 (2010); 5-1 (2016)

Against Ancelotti, he lost 5-1 (last night).

It is not coincidental.

Even if you argue that the squad is poor, it is Wenger’s squad, he built them, he selected them, he prepared the formation and it is entirely his duty to bring out the best in them.

Look at Dortmund and Atletico. They don’t have a better team than Arsenal but their teams are more organised, tighter and their teams have beaten these teams that have humiliated Arsenal above. The difference is the bench.

Look at this squad, we don’t seem to be deficient in any section. The problem is about applying the players judiciously. Motivating them and keeping their morale super high. Wenger has consistently demonstrated he is incapable of doing these.

Wenger has too much power and Arsenal board are too timid to hold him accountable, they are too petty to take any success above the trophy of top four. They have no balls.

Wenger Must Go

The only reason he shouldn’t be sacked right away is for old time’s sake. Let him finish this season then get out with his ineffective midas touch.

Most people who are reluctant to see Wenger go want Wenger to leave with a bam, covered in glory. Haha. But the more we wait for Wenger to leave gloriously, the deeper we sink in the quagmire that he allowed develop under his nose.

Others point at Man United and wave their struggles in our face as what Arsenal stands to suffer when Wenger leaves. Not necessarily. We mustn’t suffer like Man United if Wenger leaves. And even if we will suffer when he leaves, I vote that he leaves immediately. The earlier the suffering, the sooner we’ll get to fix it. Because Wenger must eventually leave!

And what is this we will suffer? A lost of champions league football. Nonsense. We have never won the champions league, we haven’t gone past the round of 16 this decade, so what have we lost? I could exchange not filling the attendance form of the champions league between 2010 and 2014 in exchange for one league title. Just one. Anything but this annual disgrace every February.

We Need a Fresh Man

Personally, I will go for Thierry Henry. He has played for Arsenal, he loves the club, he has played under great mangers, in three big leagues, and has a winning mentality that we so lack. He would turn our club around. Simeone is another person who would charge Arsenal up. AC Milan might take him this summer. No cry. There are quite a number of managers in Italy, Spain and Germany who would turn this club around and turn it around for good. If the person fails we can always fire him and take another.

No? You want consistency? I also want consistency but not the consistency of one coach who specialises in losing. Chelsea, Man City and Madrid are a bunch of sacking clubs. Compare their trophy cabins with Arsenal’s in the last ten years.

Other Changes

Ozil should go. He must this summer. He is a good player but he is a luxury we can’t afford. Ozil only functions in a 4:2:3:1 formation as the foremost man behind the striker.  in a 4:4:2 Ozil will be lost, in a 4:3:3, Ozil can’t be found. Let’s not even think of a 3:4:3 formation or 4:1:4:1.

In the pitch Ozil doesn’t show the grit of winners. He is easily frustrated and it doesn’t take a lot to hide him in a match. Deny him the ball for fifteen minutes or man-mark him for twice that time and Ozil’s match is over.

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Ozil is Arsenal’s biggest name, most expensive player and most adored idol. But consistently, when he is most needed, he betrays the trust and hope the fans have on him.

Dropping Ozil to the bench might destabilise the team. The press won’t stop talking about ‘Ozil dropped again’ and linking him with other clubs. He should go. It will serve as a warning and a lesson for incoming Arsenal superstars. Perform or get out. We mean business, Arsenal is not a nursery of egos and over pampered adults.

Others like Ramsey, Walcott, Mertasacker, Gabriel must follow suit. Enough of the underachieving. We need fighters (have you noticed how opponents will surround an Arsenal player pushing him around and no Arsenal player will come to his aid?).

And whatever it costs Arsenal must keep Sanchez, for one more season at least. The new coach will need his fighter spirit and hustling to steady the ship.

My Argument

Arsenal is an ogbanje that comes bubbling with energy and eventually dies off every season. We the mother and family are tired. We need a new witch-doctor that would seize this child and design its body with a razor of determination and winning mentality. We love Arsenal and we’ll rather see a mutilated Arsenal competing strongly than a beautiful Arsenal that is a laughing stock of other fans.

I am outta here.

Tweet me @Oke4chukwu

fulani-herdsmen-hard-voices

Apostle Suleiman and the Politics of ‘Defend Yourself’

I wanted to post this on Facebook but, on the last minute, I decided to put it on the blog in order to have a better conversation. By putting it on the blog, I have cut off a large number of people who are less likely to click on a link and are too lazy to read but who are very quick to start a fight in the comment box.

I sometimes think of this blog as an exclusive club where I come to share more delicate things. Viral is not usually more useful. In fact, the more philistinism you put in your work the more likely you are to go viral. I am beginning to suspect that there is an acute lack of willingness to engage in intelligent arguments in Nigeria. We are too breezy, too gossipy, too pictorial, too jokey, too dismissal, too impatient to really make a difference. I, you and the few of us who have sense, have a lot to do to salvage Nigeria from the siege of deplorability.

That is not my problem in this particular post. Apostle Suleman’s sermon is.

I have watched the video for quite a few times and I have also read the comments condemning him. At first, I shrugged off the whole thing by reposting Elnathan John’s tweet that the average Christian or Muslim sermon contains hate speech. But the arguments and name calling have continued. And a tweet of 140 characters couldn’t have covered it all. I have now decided to develop my points.

I will discuss the points in two parts. The first part is on what I believe in; in the second part, I will pass my verdict (yes, this blog is a court and I am the chief judge).

PART ONE

1, I am a Christian. I am a Christian who has a strong clarity about the deity of Jesus Christ as a Prince of Peace.

So I find the sermon of the apostle curious and troubling. Self-defence, which the Christian Association of Nigeria has endorsed, is not a Christian way. It doesn’t matter how many Christians say it. It doesn’t matter how many times they say it, or how highly placed they are placed; the weapons of Christianity are not carnal. Period!

2, Nigerian government has failed Christians.

One of the perceptions of Christians and southerners about Buhari during his many attempts to become president is that he is a religious and ethnic fanatic. Even Atiku implied this during his campaign for the APC ticket. Buhari is now president having been polished by the media powerhouse of Tinubu. But Buhari’s appointments, utterances, actions and body language have proved his critics right. He is biased. He doesn’t take the incessant attacks of Fulani herdsmen seriously. I don’t think it takes sleep away from his eyes.

3, Self-defence is a natural law.

It’s acceptable to every international, civil and human rights group. But it is not a Christian tenet. I am not against self-defence but I am against advocating self-defence on the altar. The Christian altar should be disengaged from this sort politics. Why,

a) Because it is not Christian.

b) Because it robs Christianity the power to tap into the supernatural defence they   believe in.

c) It energises their adversaries who would take it as a call to arm themselves the more.

d) It is meaningless because anyone who is resolved to take up self-defence will do so whether the clergy condemns it or not. And those who will run away will run away even if Apostle Paul of Tarsus comes in person blandishing a machine gun.

That takes me to the second part.

PART TWO

What is the way forward? I, Justice Kingsley Okechukwu of Hard Voices Supreme Courts, rule that,

1, Christians must tap into their real power.

They serve a God who walked on water, who raised the death, who resurrected Himself from the death, whose servant’s shadow healed multitudes (except you don’t believe these in which case you are not a Christian). If a Christian with as little as a tenth of the faith of the least disciple of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stands up today and says, ‘As long as I live, there will no longer be any Fulani herdsmen harassment’, it will be the end of herdsmen terrorism. He may say, if he is the angry type, ‘Any Fulani herdsman who lays his hand on a weapon will fall and die instantly’, and it will happen. But where is such man?

2, Christians must stop playing home and away.

If you believe in God, you do, if you don’t you don’t. Once a Christian starts making statements like ‘Pray but don’t be stupid’ he is invariably saying, ‘Pray but get AK47 in case your prayer fails.’ And such attitude is against the faith in God. If you don’t trust, in totality, the power of God, then you better have a powerful plan B because you will need it. Once you put God as plan A you have lost it. God doesn’t do plans. He is your saviour or he is not. He is not one of your saviours.

3, If Christians decide to go with plan B, then the likes of Apostle Suleman must step down the pulpit and lead the way.

There should be offerings for weapons and congregations should be encouraged to sow a seed of weaponry. Going on Plan B stealthily won’t work because Christians are against a well-organised group with the tacit if not overt support of their elites both in government and outside it. I urge you Christian not to do this,

  1. Because it will destroy Nigeria. We’ll wake up someday and there is no more country called Nigeria.
  2. Because it is not a clear cut battle between Muslims and Christians. Although Christians are near 100 percent of the victims of Fulani carnage, the terrorists are a minority and in mobilizing for self-defence there is no way it won’t spill-over into a free for all fight.

4, Nigerian Government must protect Christians.

They should stop endorsing Fulani terrorism. They should start arresting these evil people, try them and jail them. They must raid their hideout and recover their weapons and go after their sponsors. The nonsense talk of ‘We will deal ruthlessly with perpetrators of this bastardly acts’ is nonsense talk, we are no longer buying. Buhari and his agents must show that they are not only against law-breaking but after law-breakers. How can, as Suleman says, ‘212 people died in Kaduna and nobody is prosecuted, nobody is prosecuted. Not one.’ Yet we have Biafran agitators in prison; Niger delta avengers in prison, Shia Movement members in prison and not a Fulani herdsmen in detention. This stinks of bias, of cover-up even.

They can start by re-arresting the killers of Evangelist Eunice and the woman beheaded in Kano. How can we be trying a man who named his dog Buhari and say we have no evidence against people who kill people?

5, Nigerian Government must rebuild the communities destroyed by the herdsmen.

I don’t mean rebuilding just the burnt houses and churches, but using the opportunity to electrify the localities, bring tap borne water, build more school blocks, tar their roads, empower the people financially etc. It won’t bring the death back but it would ease the mourning of the living. Doing this will pass a message to government that they stand to pay a huge price if they do not protect their citizens.

6, Influential Nigerians must continually hold government to their duty.

It pains me when politicians of the opposition join APC. It robs Nigeria of the needed dissenting voice. But non-politicians like Pastor Adeboye, whose complaint caused the sacking of the FRC executive secretary and the suspension of its alleged anti-church law, Uma Ukpai and Father Mbaka must use their influence to the limit (except they are silently involved in verdict one above, which is not evident).

Finally, we must keep the conversation going. It doesn’t seem to change anything but it has put us one conversation forward. You may also want to read Too much bloodshed and Don’t let the devil use you. My groaning for the good of Nigeria, no matter how flawed it is, did not start today. It won’t end anytime soon.

God help us.

Tweets to @Oke4chukwu