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Roker Ramble: Arsene Wenger’s one-way-lift-shaft of Doom!

Arsene and Pards share a rapidly dropping elevator, Garry Monk looks like Damian Lewis, Pep’s ribbon gets him tangled up in politics and Kasper Schmeicel can’t tell Charlie Adam from Paul Lambert. It’s time for the Roker Ramble!

Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal - Premier League
Well and truly dunked...
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Is it mathematically possible for Arsenal to be relegated? There must be an app somewhere - the ‘Arsapp’ perhaps that can spell it out for you, because on their current form, they’ll be lucky to qualify for a Panini sticker album next season let alone a European place.

Wenger came out with a suitably poignant sound-bite to describe his sides current woes:

You go up by the stairs, you go down by the lift.

By my reckoning Arsenal have been going down in the lift for at least three seasons and it’s reached the stage where the cable has snapped.

Last week they went to everyone's favourite for survival – Brighton. Great ground, nice fans, attractive football, universally loved manager and players called ‘Gross’, Dunk’ and ‘Bong’ - what’s not to like?! And about three minutes after kick off, Dunk scored a beauty – a slam-dunk no less, and Joe Hart stood more chance of finding a way back than Arsenal did at that point.

Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal - Premier League
Their goal is that way - really.

And it sums up the situation quite dramatically when you could make a legitimate case for West Brom playing with more confidence and spirit than Arsenal at the moment.

Not that it’s doing them any good of course. When Alan Pardew took over at West Brom, Swansea were bottom of the league - at Christmas, and we all know what that means.

Swansea City v West Ham United - Premier League
Who needs friends when you’re winning?
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Since then Carlos Carvalhal has transformed Swansea into a comfortable mid-table side, whilst Pardew has shuffled West Brom into the lift-shaft of doom alongside Arsenal. So much so that he was given one game to save his job – against Watford last week. Of course, he lost.

But, the 12 year old Chinese owner of West Brom didn’t pull the trigger, citing the fact that there were no suitable managers available to take over the job, thereby plunging Mark Hughes into the psychological Death Star of all depressions and causing Marco Silva to gaze wistfully into the middle distance and wonder what excuse he would’ve given for turning them down.

Southampton v Watford - Premier League
West Brom? Seriously?
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

They could’ve done far worse than look at their opponents, Watford, and their approach to changing manager. Watford go through managers like Theresa May goes through ‘close allies’, with the only difference being that Watford come up with credible replacements.

Like the current incumbent, Javier Gracia, who no one had ever heard of and last year was managing in Russia – unsuccessfully by all accounts.

However, since his arrival he’s steadied the Watford ship, so much so that they’re looking at a top-ten finish, but he still had a kind word to say for Pardew after the game:

I respect Alan Pardew and wish him the best for the future... who’s Alan Pardew?

West Ham United v Watford - Premier League
See - I have my initials on my coat so people know who I am.
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Not far across the dystopian wasteland that passes for the West Midlands are fellow strugglers Birmingham City.

Like West Brom, they’reowned by an absentee Chinese businessman and like West Brom, they’re cheek-by-jowl with Arsenal on the great road out-of-town. However, Birmingham’s approach is the opposite of their neighbors – ‘we shall rid ourselves of this ne’er-do-well’ they cry, and boom – Steve Cotterill’s handing back his prestigious car-park pass and the club are wondering what to do with a load of training kit with ‘SC’ on the front.

Brentford v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship
Walking the walk.

You had to feel sorry for Cotterill, interviewed after the match, the eponymous ‘dead man walking’, but one question really stood out. When asked about calls he’d had with the owner he admitted he’d never talked to the owner at any stage since he’d been at the club. Sounded ominously familiar.

Step up to the plate, Garry Monk. Has anyone else commented on the fact that he looks like the actor Damian Lewis? Anyone? No, ok then. Anyway, he’s now in the hot seat and hoping for a new-manager boost to list to lift them up the table. Will it work? Possibly, and I’d give them more hope than I’d give West Brom for their inertia.

Fulham v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship
Gary Monk, or is it?
Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images

‘Tie a yellow ribbon’ – Pep found himself in FA-size doodoo’s this week for wearing a yellow ribbon in protest at the imprisonment of Catalan politicians.

F.A. regulations disallow the wearing of any political symbol during matches, but you can wear what you like before and after matches and at the press conference, and in Champions League games apparently... oh, and now a poppy too. It’s English and only FIFA and James McClean ever objected - neither of whom count for anything significant.

Burnley v Manchester City - Premier League
It brightens up my ‘Game of Thrones’ look.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

But it’s not what you can’t wear, it’s starting to look like what you have to wear. For a few weeks now managers have all worn the Jeff Stelling prostrate cancer badge, alongside their club lapel badge. Fair enough. This week they all added a daffodil – which I assumed was for St David’s Day, which would have been a bit obscure, but it turns out to represent the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity.

Again, why would you have a problem with that – but the question is, who’s coordinating this and why? If a manager wants to support a particular charity then great, but every Premier League Manager wearing the same badges? Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but if there’s a message that people want to get out there, then a lapel badge on the manager is not the best way to do it.

AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle United - Premier League
The ‘FTM’ one is on the other jacket...
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

I thought it was brilliant when Villa chose a children’s hospice to show on their shirts back in the 2008-9 season – real class. As it was when Barcelona used to sport Unicef on theirs. Now that’s the way to get a message across, top teams supporting a well-meaning charity being sold on millions of tops around the world.

Birmingham City v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship
1,776 Sport.
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Talking of sponsorship, what struck me from the Birmingham v Forest game - apart from the fact that Jack Colback now plays for Forest - was that both teams had the same shirt sponsor – 888 Sport.

I was aware that shirt sponsors sign for more than one club (our current sponsor Dafabet appear on no less than three other clubs’ shirts), I just haven’t seen them together in the same game before. Must be me.

Funniest story of the week was in the Stoke v Leicester game when Stoke manager Paul Lambert was asked to change his tracksuit because Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was worried he’d mistake him for a Leicester player. A 48 year old bloke standing by the side of the pitch? I think I’d start to worry about my goalkeeper personally.