Podcast 93: Good Boy Medals, 2017
This week’s Twohundredpercent podcast is the polar opposite of last week’s. At that time, we were having a look at the very worst of this season’s players. This week, we’re back to our third annual Good Boy Medals, a selection of the very best (and, yes, the very worst) that this season had to offer. There’s a link to the Brian Kilcline interview here and a link to the Tweet referred to elsewherre in the podcast here. Read the replies. Seriously. All of them.
As ever, you can download the 200% podcast by right-clicking and saving here, whilst the 200% podcast’s RSS feed is here and you can subscribe through Itunes here. We now also have a Facebook page for the podcast, which you can “like” by going here. And you can support us through subscribing right here, through Patreon. And talking of Patreon… subscribers receive a free , thirty-two page e-magazine every month. To give you an idea of what you might expect, we’ve decided to make the first edition of it, which came out at the end of August, available for a free download so that you can check it out. It’s an Easter egg, basically, and you can download it by clicking here.
We also made reference in part three of The Emirates Stadium mystery, which is tacked onto the end of this week’s podcast, to an exclusive interview with the new Arsenal manager (in 2012 – it’s complicated) Plumstead Highbury QC. Below is a transcript of this interview.
TWOHUNDREDPERCENT: Arsenal’s start to the season has seen some rather inconsistent performances. Does this worry you?
PLUMSTEAD HIGHBURY: No. Inconsistency is to be positively encouraged. The ultimate goal of any successful playing system is unpredictability. The greatest thing a manager can hear from one of their players is to be told that they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. If the motivations that guide your own actions are completely unknown to you, your opponent cannot anticipate your next move.
200%: What is your approach likely to be against Wigan Athletic?
PH: Anyone familiar with the history of English league football will know that Arsenal were the progenitors of the third back system. Herbert Chapman built our legacy by playing three at the back and made this club virtually unbeatable as a result. Against Wigan Athletic we will be following in these hallowed footsteps and operating with a three-man defence. I am convinced that success will follow as surely as it did for the great team of the 1930s. Then the onus is on me to not die of pneumonia. And to warn the world about the rise of Adolf Hitler.
200%: Does this spell the end for the much-discussed X-W formation?
PH: Absolutely not. The X-W formation is as significant a part of my thinking as it ever was, which is to say: not at all. Giving tactical systems formalised names is against every aspect of my football thinking. Take 4-4-2, as an example. Its foundations are based on an admission of failure: that first “4” represents the number of defenders. Defenders are something that football could do without. Football needs to be played with attack at the forefront of the mind and when I say attack, I mean attack in the most straightforward meaning of the word. There’s a lot of talk in tactical theory about “midfield” and about “phases of attack” but by my reckoning there are only two phases to any attack: Firstly, a player must ask himself, “am I attacking, right now?” And if the answer is no, then they must attack immediately.
200%: Are you as reticent to put a figure to the number of players that ought to be involved in attack as you are dismissive of enumerating a team’s defensive players?
PH: Everyone ought to be attacking. The aim of any football manager is to send out a team who are completely unburdened by thoughts about shape or strategy. Football players oughtn’t to be thinking about anything at all. The only metrics by which a football player should judge their reason for existence are where the ball is and where the goal is, and the necessity of bringing the two together as frequently as possible.
200%: In the game against Swansea your team only managed to unite the two on a single occasion. How did you view the performance?
PH: It was meek, cowardly. A manager has the right to expect that their players should always do everything humanly possible to get to the ball first and we didn’t do it. If you can’t get to the ball, you can’t attack. Attacks without the ball tend to make the supporters angry.
200%: You have been very dismissive of the importance of defenders. Do you not agree that a good defender is just as capable of winning games and points for a football club as a good attacker?
PH: That Italian football journalist [editor’s note: Highbury is discussing 1950s sports writer and novellist Gianni Brera, although it was not absolutely clear that he didn’t mean Football Italia’s James Richardson] who said the perfect game of football ended 0-0 was an idiot. Every defender is a white flag, an overt sign of defeat. Every defender is a perfidious scumbag, an affront to nature. Many of them come from broken homes. You look at them sometimes and wonder what trauma they must have gone through to not only not want to be an attacker but to actively want to PREVENT attackers from achieving their purpose!
200%: Yet, you do play with defenders in your team.
PH: I do, but I wish for the day to come that I don’t have to. Football is badly in need of a breakthrough in its thinking, a paradigm shift. Goalkeepers, yes, I understand the need for them. But do they need to spend the whole match ligging about in their own area?
200%: Will your deadline day signings feature against Wigan?
PH: Jamie Vardy is going straight into the match squad and I am sure the supporters will be excited by what he has to offer. Theo Walcott and I were unable to properly define a working relationship. I thought he was bloody awful. You play him on the right hand side and he just dribbles about in an area of the pitch where the goal isn’t. So you play him in the centre instead and the prick just keeps dribbling back out wide. Bell end. Vardy is more direct and straightforward, two things I appreciate in a football player. Some supporters have questioning the signing, especially considering the money involved, but Vardy and Leicester will be champions of England within five years. Now that title can be ours, which is what the fans continually claim that they want. If they are being honest, they will come round. Dele Alli is only 16 years old and will probably not be in the match squad but I do consider him to be a member of the first team, which is one in the eye for Spurs.
200% Theo Walcott was just one of a number of first team players to depart on deadline day. Do you feel that your squad is a little thin, particularly bearing in mind your avowed policy of starting with at least two strikers in every match?
PH: The Arsenal board are very keen for me to develop our youngsters into first team players and I am fully supportive of this policy. Football players are essentially just pieces of meat, with hair. I want Arsenal to get past old-fashioned notions of positionality. The secret to success in football lies in numbers alone. My obligation to this football club is simply to produce eleven human men and then get them to attack. My contract is worth £87,000 per week for the next nine months. Eighty-seven THOUSAND pounds PER WEEK! I’m having a terrific amount of fun.