December 10th – Southampton 1 Arsenal 1

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This was a game of the two hulks. The BFG donated one goal and then our SuperSub snatched the equalizer.

It looked like March had come early and had 0-1 written all over it. The first 10 minutes were torrid. We were weak at the back. They should have put the game away before half-time. And did I mention we were shit?

I can see us reverting to a back four very soon. And after today you can see why.

But let’s not forget we dropped 2 more points against a very boring and average Saints team. Apart from a Monreal shot that went wide, aside from Girouds header, I can’t remember their oh-so-ugly goalie making a save in the second half. As an aside, I do wonder whether the inept and corrupt FA might introduce a rule that deducts 3 points when a team fields a truly ugly player. Why should hard working fans toil all week to then have to spend their money watching such ugly people play the beautiful game? It just seems wrong. And, of course, we’d earned 4 points. And somehow this Elephant Man even plays for England. Enough said. Let’s hope he gets picked to go to Russia and then gets lost in Siberia somewhere (though that’s a little unfair to Siberia).

Where was I? Oh, did I mention that we had more possession than a cannabis dealer but could not create any chances. We spurned chances to shot in order to thread the needle and create the perfect goal. Though I’m relieved we did not lose it’s still pretty pathetic to feel it’s an achievement to get just a point in this type of game. We are not good enough and we run out of ideas. Sure, the BFG should be put out to pasture. I love this guy and look forward to him being the Academy director. But today it took him 20 minutes to warm up and get from 1st gear to second. It’s just a shame that that is he’s only a two gear player. Alongside him Koscielny looked unconvincing . His distribution is uncertain and when it get’s played out on our right it looks like we’re always about to turn the ball over. And, why is that? It’s because our Spanish darling still does not know how to really play the game. Today I thought he was a liability. Too often he gets shoved off the ball. He’s a light-weight in the tackle and he’s forward passing is indecisive. He takes too long on the ball and is scared to take on his man. All our incisive play is down the left – as it was against Manure.   In a back four – to which we reverted – he gets caught up field and exposes the defense. At the end of the game it was Ozil that tracked back to snuff out one of their counter-attacks while Bellend was left upfield.

Today, everything good we did ran through Ozil. He worked so hard. But why is Alexis taking up his space? At this point I’d be happy to get some money for our Chile pepper. He even spurned chances to shot when in the box to create that special goal. He seems lost tactically and liability on the ball. He’s passing is off and he takes the momentum out of our play. I feel sorry for Cigarette. He got no service and was always forced to play intricate passing outside the box. Too often the team played side to side and not forward. This speaks to the imbalance in the team. We can’t evolve with Xhaka and Bellend. I would prefer to see Jack replace Xhaka. Except that now it will be Jack replacing Ramsey. Ramsey was not dominating today but we’ll still miss him as he suffers from his annual thigh/groin injury that will keep him out for 6 weeks.

And how stupid is Theo. After being the only forward to shine mid-week he gets a calf injury that causes Theo -1.0 to get playing time. Badbeck did zero once he came on. This guy is speedily going no-where.

There is no way we can let our hulk go out on loan this January. I get that he wants playing time. We should drop Alexis to the bench and play the French/German axis up front. But that won’t happen.

I also wonder what the deal is with the Serbian-tank. Maybe it’s an adjustment period to our league but he does get pulled out of position and seems less involved in these games.

But I’m worried. We looked vulnerable today. Austin could have had a couple of goals early on. Bellend is a liability. In either formation. And Xhaka is somewhere between a pooh and full on diarrhea. And worse, than that (if that’s possible) was our overall lack of creativity. It reminds me when Hleb was playing for us. All possession and sideways movement. There was only one breakout counter-attack move from their corner in the first half. Thereafter it was too slow and too ponderous. All sideways and back. This allowed an organized Saints team to pack their defense as we tried to thread that needle.

We always knew this would be a long season. This type of game reminds us that the false dawns of Sp*rs/Burnly will be quickly followed by these type of disjointed performances.

There is little to be excited about. And if we loose Ozil we’re screwed. There will be more false dawns of course. But we’re lacking a steel and I’m getting more concerned about our key players – Kosclieny and Alexis. We can’t win without them finding their game again. There are plenty of upcoming games for this to happen. But the inevitable injuries will just apply more pressure.

Rather than being happy that we gained a point I can’t figure out where this team is going and why I should have any faith in them. We seem to be one game away from a complete disaster. It sounds contradictory to see a team grab an equalizer in the last 3 minutes and then claim the team is fragile. But the benchmark should not be striving to get into the NoHoppa league next year nor even the top four but being genuinely competitive. And we’re just not that team. In a funny way this result and this performance was more soul destroying than the Manure game. And all of these players had a full weeks rest.

So I’m going to go away and steel myself for a painful Christmas period. There are too many games and too many opportunities for us to fuck up for me to have any real sense of optimism. Maybe I’ll write a letter to Santa – or maybe, just send him an email – and put in a late request for a return to health of our Santi. Then given that he’s Santa not God, I’ll ask for something that more achievable. A new defense midfield player and new right wing back. Along with my acquisition of all shares of AFC. Then I can replace AW with myself as manager and sit on the bench alongside the legend that is Steve Bould. Now that would be fun.

– LB7

 

December 2nd – Arsenal 1 Manchester United 3

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Happy Christmas Manchester United. Take that. Oh, and one more.

Fuck it. You gotta laugh. We could have played for 180 minutes and we’d still not have scored more than one. We hit the bar the post, missed so many chances and watch miraculous saves from De Gea.

Our defense imploded. We saw a dress rehearsal against Huddersfield towards the end of the first half. The difference was they were good enough to take advantage whereas MU were.

What was Kosclieny doing with that cross field ball? Five minutes later Xhaka dwelled on the ball and then Mustafa doubled down but holding onto it for too long. I thought he was substituted from a case of extreme embarrassment. The strongest part of our team for the last 3 games decided to give MU an unnecessary helping hand.

It’s funny really MU used our tactics against Sp*rs against us – pressing the back three and cutting off the distribution and thus forcing us into bad decisions.

Thereafter we overcommitted and asked them to hit us on the counter attack. On how many occasions were disorganized such that it required Ozil or Ramsey to be the player chasing them back.

But oh the chances we missed. You got laugh. The first half was a one way possession. It’s not possible to go through the list because it’s so long. After 45 minutes I was sure we weren’t going to score. Then the only pass of the game that Alexis made that actually went to our own team allowed Ramsey to make that perfect pass to Cigarette. Back in it at 1-2 we looked in complete control. But then yet again Koscielny made his second mistake with Pogba to allow the killer third goal. And Pogba though it would be fun to make the game more interesting by assaulting Bellend. But even with 10 men as long as one of the was De Gea we were not going to score another one.

Generally speaking Mariner is one of the better refs – not that that says too much – and I thought he controlled the game pretty well and most of his decision were reasonable. Sending Pogba off was a choice other refs might have dodged. But I don’t see how he could fail to give a penalty when Welbeck was tripped in the box. And what about the linesman – he was 20 feet from the incident. How can he not flag that foul? What’s the point of him being there if he can’t see that clear foul. Obviously he did but then just lacked the balls to raise his flag.

Today as abject as Alexis was, Ozil was dynamic. He controlled our creativity and helped propel our inventiveness. Cigarette is a natural forward to will be disappointed that he was only able to convert one chance today. His link up play is exceptional and he’s physically strong. But it’s the third leg of our famed forward line that was missing today. Nearly every decision was the wrong one and he wandered into all the wrong positions on the field. He crowded out the space for others. This was the big game were Ozil is supposed to disappear but instead Alexis beat him to it.

Ramsey was effective today making those late dangerous runs into the box. Even Ob1 came on and was impressive. Bellend was not so bad but Kolasinac should have known better for that first goal where he waited for the ball to reach him. Monreal was OK and relative to the other two was a star. As was Cech. Can’t blame him for any of this. Even the Wenger decisions were good moves. When Mustafa slinked off you though we’d see the BFG. But Ob1 was a good call. And then to see the back of Xhaka early on. It’s just a shame that Giroud decided to play like a pussy. You can so clearly see the difference between our French hulk and a Frenchman that is aggressive in penalty box that wants to shoot rather than flick the ball off to someone else.

Aside from losing, dropping three points and making Darth Vader happy, it’s a shame we imploded in ten minutes because it denied us the chance to witness a tight, close fought, tactical  game. Instead we had one of the most open games witnessed in a long time as we threw caution to the wind as we battered De Gea.

None of this is why we lost. We lost because of us. Because we self destructed in the first 10 minutes. And that’s down to us. That’s down to  mental preparation and attitude. And, today, you have to point the finger at Kosclieny. Our captain.

Remember, we always have Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 0

-LB7

 

Nov 26th – Burnley 0 Arsenal 1

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Lee Fucking Mason. Who would have believed it if that had not seen it with their own eyes. After giving Burnley every free-kick and dubious push and tackle. After having even penalized Ramsey at the end of the first half after he’d been clobbered by one of their lot, he gives us the most important decision of the game. I was looking for someone else to take that penalty rather than Alexis. But he scrapped it in and we came away with both the three points and a clean sheet. Amazing. Two wins in a row. Let the season end now.

The first half was dysfunctional. We could not seem to retain the ball. There were a couple of challenges just inside our half where I could have sworn Xhaka chickened out. He was barely involved in the game and Ramsey was taking his usual too many touches. But where was Ozil? We were down to a single Nazi in our team. Instead we had to watch Ob1 flitter around the pitch. It’s times like this that you realize (if you’d not been watching for the last 3 or 4 years) how much we miss Ozil.

In the second half though we came out with more purpose, pushed Burnley back and dominated. They were much less dangerous than they were in the first half. Gudmanssoon tested us in that first half. He looked quite good. Cech looked even better though. As, to be fair, did our entire defense.

What is up with Mustafa? I think someone has occupied his body and mind. And instead of the gormless, panicky player that gives away possession we actually have a real defender who fearlessly throws himself at the ball in dangerous areas. Only once today did he play a wayward pass. Does this mean he’s actually coachable? I hope so. Now if only someone could turn their attention to our right wing-back. Bellend is utterly gormless. It looks like he just does not know what to do the with ball when it’s at his feet. He’s become Walcott-like in his fear of taking on his man. Instead it’s always square and backwards. And he is just so flimsey on the ball that the other team has to blow on him and he gives away possession. Not that I would want Ox in that position – he was, as usual, ineffective against Chelski playing in that right-wing position that he hates so much; not that he’ll keep his place in the team when Llanlana, Mane and other return. Back to Bellend. Because we had both him and Ob1 on the right, it meant all our penetration and purpose came down the left hand side. Kolinsac combined well with both Alexis and Monreal. Between them the final ball and/or cross was lacking but they caused all the Burnley all sorts of problems.

Cigarette must be so frustrated. He worked so hard but rarely received the ball. This boy is a star but he can’t shine if they don’t pass to him. He makes the runs but without Ozil there’s no-one to feed him the ball. All his runs down the right channel were wasted because Bellend won’t go forward and can’t beat his man. Like Walcott (did I mention this before) he won’t use his pace. But Cigarette will score for us and does lead the line. When he comes short for the ball he’s got the balance and control. And then, unlike our French beauty, can sprint upfield.

In the first half, Ramsey had a wonderful chance after gorgeous work by Cigarette down the left channel. He should at least have hit the target. But then he was the only person making that run into the box. To go in level at half-time was better than I expected. I thought they bullied us and out worked us. But, at least in the second half, we controlled the game. It was also good to see Jack come on instead of Ob1. If we could put Ob1 and Bellend in a package deal and send them to Barcelona that would be ideal. I don’t think Bellend will ever fully adapt to the physical side of the English game – he’s better suited to Spain. It’s a shame we have no ready replacement though. As for Ob1 at least we have Ozil and Jack.

Today we won the three points because of our newly discovered rock-solid defense. Cech was outstanding again. And in addition to Mustafa, Monreal and Kosclieny were excellent. It’s a pity that don’t get the physical protection in front of them. Khaka was poor in the first half and only came into the game as Burnley got tired. But there’s no way we can win the league (next year not this – City have it won already) with this guy in the team. He’s a B+ player at best. But, for someone of his size, he loses way too many tackles and, unfortunately like Ramsey, is too slow on the ball.

I know I should be happier after these possibly undeserved three points but it was frustrating to see how slow we were in possession and lacking in inventiveness.  There was very little movement except for Alexis. We missed our creator in chief and it was not clear who was supposed to step up into that role. But at least we seem to have a defense now. And maybe that’s due to Mustafa. I’m hesitant to believe his new focus and concentration will persist. There was one time in the second half when, a la BFG, he went chasing a ball from our half way line into their half and left a gaping hole in our defense. It was only because their forward had no speed that they could not exploit that opportunity. But, it seems rare now that he’s that reckless. And long may he remain more Adams-like than Cygan or Stephanov-like.

They say that for teams to be successful they need to gain points when they don’t play well. It seems like we should be very successful then. We did not play that well this week. And, against poor opposition, I don’t think we did last week. But the next couple of games will tell us a lot. For these games we can’t really rotate the way we do in the NoHopa League. Having to play midweek and then face up to Darth Vader at the weekend will test the team. I hope the devil comes with his usual defensive posture of not losing. I just wish we could change Xhaka and Bellend. Then we could have a real team. We need the right hand side of the team to be functional and we need a strong physical presence. Who do you think would win in a tackle between beefy Xhaka and midget-man Kanti? No contest, right.

Anyway, here we sit in the top four after losing to Liverpool, Stoke, Watford et al. Funny old game. As much as City are running away with it, there are still many points to be dropped before we go through our usual late winter collapse. Though, we seem to have come through November relatively unscathed. Maybe that’s progress.

-LB7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 18th – Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 0

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We beat Mike Dean. Who would have thought that possible?. For once I don’t now care about any other results this weekend. Beating that lot relieves so much grief and tension. And don’t tell me anyone saw that coming. Post Man City I assumed we were in for a drubbing. I’d spent then previous two weeks praying and hoping that their big three would return with injuries. Then once I saw their lineup and ours with Mustafa being restored to play alongside Xhaka and Mike Dean, my highest expectations were that our best result would be 0-0.

How the hell did this scoreline happen? Best I can figure, Sp*rs were shit. They barely created anything. It looked like Ericksen was still smoking a cigar and drinking a dram of rum in a bar in somewhere in Dublin. May he always perform well for Denmark. My strong sense is that today Ericksen missed the dynamism and linkup-play of TGSTEL – Lord Bendtner. Bereft of those talents Ericksen was anonymous. Ali was barely noticeable and Kane ineffectual. We should all be sure to write our Christmas cards to Potachino thanking him for both purchasing and then playing Sissoko the entire game. This guy is so poor I don’t even think he could get into our team. Thankfully they had the poor judgement to leave little boy Winks on the bench. Their selection seemed as poor as ours.

Overall both teams demonstrated they can’t win the league. But the difference is that we got three precious points against a top six team. And, on most days, a better team than us.

After the robbery of the Man City game it was a pleasure to be on the receiving end of some marginal referee decisions. And marginal is an understatement. It’s not clear Alexis was fouled by his namesake for the free-kick. And then Mustafa was offside before his perfect header in off the post. Then, for the second, there’s a case that Cigarette was off-side when he made his run. So, we knew Dean was a wanker which he demonstrated today but, for once, we were the beneficiaries.

As good as Ozil looked today our best players were Koscielny and, drum roll please, Mustafa. Anyone who has read the wise words regularly written here or had the chance to follow me during my extensive radio and TV appearances can attest to the fact that I have always been his biggest supporter. Let it be noted how consistent I have been in support of his many talents. And let no-one say that, on seeing his name on the team-sheet today, I cursed both our manager and the football gods. Today he actually looked like a defender. Of course, that lot played to his strengths. But nonetheless, he won every header, scored our opening goal and made some critical blocks in our area. Even his distribution was not utterly appalling. This was the best game he’s played for us. Even his after-match interview was coherent. That opening header changed the balance of the game. You could see the game shift after that. It was a wonderfully placed header. Very Giroud-like. Without the French good looks.

Our forward line looked mobile and when Ramsey pushed up we looked dangerous. It’s just a shame that we have players that seem to make the same runs as each other. Both Ozil and Ramsey seemed to occupy the same space too often. Cigarette had a few chances today where he should have done better. But at least he started the game. I was not entirely happy when he was replaced. And pissed that our Coq then proceeded to charge up field rather than sit back and defend our backline. Sometimes (i.e. every game) I wonder about the football IQ of some of our players. The worst offenders are Ramsey and Bellend. Ramsey too often would loose the ball just outside our penalty area. Doing the usual Ramsey thing – taking too many touches and trying his Cruyff-move. Poor Johan must be turning in his grave as he watches the slowness and predictability of these moves. There seems a lack of awareness as to which part of the pitch a midfielder should take risks and where they should just get off the ball. But the poster-child for lack of football intelligence has to go to Bellend. The number of times today when he gave the ball away of played passes that immediately put our receiving player under pressure could only mean he been studying under the tutelage of Mustafa. Couple that with his refusal to even consider closing down Davies before he crossed the ball meant that everyone else had to intercept those crosses. And going forward he’s always the player you don’t want to receive the ball in their penalty area. At some point Bellends’ awareness of the game needs to develop but all too often he looks Walcott-like when he receives the ball – clueless.

And then there’s Xhaka. He should have been the one replaced by our Coq. I was sure that he was going to get sent off for a second yellow. Today though he did not give the ball away just outside our own penalty area – I think he delegated that to Ramsey and Bellend.  But he seemed off the pace and uninvolved. Too many times Dembele just drifted pass him. We were lucky that Sp*rs were so miserable today. I’ve always thought they had one of the best starting elevens in the league and today demonstrated when their main anyone of their main two or three are not functioning they lack the players on the bench to change it up. And then their manager left it too late. They should have made changes at half-time. But, fuck it, that’s their problem.

Today our defense won us the game – and that includes Cech. All of them were aggressive and consistent. The Tank remains a little subdued. Alexis scored a opportunistic goal but otherwise continues to make the wrong decisions with his distribution and should have had a hat trick today. But, before he leaves us, he will continue to score and provide the spark we desperately need. As for his partner in crime, Ozil – he took a while to get into the game. But when he started to roam the pitch he became an important factor. As, to be fair, did Ramsey. Ozil worked hard and has the vision and calmness to link the entire team together. Today was one of his better games – not his best – but sufficiently good. It was painful to see him replaced by Ob1. I get that we needed someone who would work hard but Ob1’s first contribution was to give the ball away. And, as ever, in front of goal when he had chances he snapped at them – lacking any self-believe that he’d score. Seems like Ericksen he can do it for his country but not his own team.

Now I can enjoy the rest of the week. But I also realize this might be the highlight of our season – our entire season. So I’m going to wallow in it for a while. I still think we’re a long way from being able to challenge for anything. No team with Xhaka and Ramsey as the midfield can. I want to see Jack in there for Xhaka. And soon, that time will come.

All my assessments were wrong today. I got the score line wrong, the outcome wrong, I was convinced Dean would fuck us. And I was sure Xhaka and Musfafa would find a way to get sent off because of reckless challenges. And I was positive that Mustafa would be a liability. Luckliy I merely demonstrated I know fuck all about this game.

So, today, let’s celebrate beating both Dean and Sp*rs. It’s quite rare these days.

-LB7

Nov 5th – Man City 3 Arsenal 1

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We were robbed of our potential self inflicted misery today. Rather than a Liverpool away like performance this one was more Chelski like. But this time the referee and the linesman decided to don sky-blue shirts. How else to explain the season over season suffering at their ground. Two years running now they’ve been given offside goals. And the penalty was absolutely soft. As others have pointed out – at Stoke we “lost” a goal because of a poor offside decision and yet today, when Silva was clearly offside this was not given. And that penalty! What is up with the standard of the refs and linesman.

Man City were outstanding. Their movement, control, short-passing and speed of attack are reminiscent of Arsenal from 10 years ago. They had many chances to beat us so they needed no help from the ref or linesman. They will win the league this year. And they will deserve it (given the amount of money they have spent over the last few years).

I had to check my eyesight when I saw our team. I bet there were few people who expected to see both Ob1 and our Cock in the starting eleven. I assume the BFG was too busy stomping all over Poland to play in this game. Though with hindsight he would have been ripped apart given their speed of their attack. Coq was not too bad. He was clearly unfamiliar with the positioning and got himself all tangled up when Cech would pass him the ball. He tended to drift too far up field and attack the ball too much but he was not the cause of our downfall. Ob1 was more surprising. Leaving our Cigarette for big games is becoming a bad Wenger habit. And in retrospect it looks a particularly poor decision.

The mix and balance in our team – actually, any team, is so important. When Ob1 plays on the left wing he looks lost and quite shit. But when he wanders infield and links up and turns quickly he is quite creative – see he’s movement for our goal. I get that Wenger wanted to play a tight, compact game and Ob1 can work hard on the wing. But you can’t leave out your main goal-scorer.

So aside from the ref giving them the game we also saw some other predictable flaws in the game. And both revolve around our two star players. Alexis today was shit. More a Skoda than a Lexus. Nearly every decision he made was the wrong one. He dwelled on the ball too long in all the wrong places. If I was Man City I would not see how he’d fit into their team. None of their players are as ball hogging as Alexis. Though maybe he is an upgrade on Sterling.

At this stage though I would start to consider leaving Alexis on the bench. If he’s going to sign for another club I don’t see how we can keep him in January. Get him off our team. It’s not like we’re going to win the league this year. Get the money and put it in the bank for the summer signings. This team will never showcase Alexis. It won’t even get into the top 4. But we knew that at the start of the season. So let’s at least plan and build for the future.

This also applies to Ozil. Whereas at Everton he was stellar today he was absent. Again, we did not lose because of him. But, again, if he’s not going to sign a contract let’s sell him and get the money. As brilliant as he is (on his day) we can’t afford to keep players that don’t believe in us and won’t commit to us. There was very link up play between these two today – that’s unusual. But that was also dictated by the pressure that ManCity put us under. They really are an impressive side. But we had our chances. Ramsey in the first half and then in the short period before the ref decided to give them a penalty and then right after our goal. When we reverted to a 4-4-2 we looked more dangerous.

But, today, we saw the main flaw in our team. It’s not Alexis nor Ozil. It’s Xhaka. I am tired of watching him drift around the game picking up the wrong defensive positions and not providing the defensive cover for the defense. If you watch that first goal which started with Ob1 giving away the ball just outside our area. Once the initial shot is saved by Cech you can see Xhaka start to amble out of the penalty box. He’s so passive though that by the time that Debryune starts the one two, instead of having closing of the space he’s standing around doing nothing. Reminiscent of Watford’s’ winner. It’s not that he’s a bad player. He’s be fine on West Ham or Everton. But not for Arsenal. And, then later in the game we saw Jack come in and play that position. There is no comparison. I know it’s too early for Jack – he needs to build his fitness and he, obviously, will pick up an injury soon. But he’s way better in that position than Xhaka. It’s so infuriating seeing Xhaka make the same positional mistakes over the length of a season. There is real ability there I know but he’s too weak on the defensive side. And therefore he is a liability.

Cech was good today; he’s save in the second half was brilliant. He and Koscelny kept us in the game in the first half. But we got ripped apart too easily on the counter attack – which is why we needed the speed of the Cock in defense. And we started the game well. We attacked them, controlled some of the possession and looked reasonably well matched. Until first Ob1 and then Xhaka made their mistakes. At this level you can’t afford to make mistakes like this let along repeat those mistakes game after game.

Common wisdom states that these type of poor refereeing decisions even out over a full season. I used to subscribe to this view. But now I’m not so sure. These games – against the top six – hang on such fine margins. And today the balance was entirely tilted against us. It’s not like we went their expecting to win. It’s not like we think we’re the better team. And it’s not like they need any help. But I don’t see how post Stoke and not after this it will even up.

The best we can do now is build for the future. There were some good performances today by individual players. There were periods where we dominated. This was nothing like the capitulation at Anfield. This was more like the Chelski game but with a shittyer ref. We need to give incrementally more time to Jack. We need to get Cigarette to start every game. And we need to bench Xhaka. Ramsey worked hard but did not do too much. Bellerin and Kolasinac were pretty reasonable. Monreal was skinned too much but was left exposed by the lack of cover in midfield.

For our next game we had better get our team selection right. We have two weeks now to dwell on this game and figure out the right line up. Today AW got it wrong but will get sympathy because of the shit ref. but that won’t be the case for our next game. If he makes the same decisions and we lose then all hell will break loose. And rightly so. It’s not like our expectations are so high these days. We see both of our neighbors making progress. One of them scarily so. We seemed to have wasted all the revenue and momentum of our new stadium to have fallen back to being an outsider in the run for the title – more Southampton than Manchester United. That is so sad. But with no signs that anything will change any time soon we should at least get the right players on the pitch. And that means playing those that are able to perform in their assigned positions and those that want to play for us. If a player fails either of these two (low) requirements then they should sit on the bench and we should give the opportunity to others.

-LB7

Sept 25th – Arsenal 2 WBA 0

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I hate Monday games. Having to wait and (not) watch the other teams play mean that there’s nothing to focus on for the entire weekend. And then there’s always the dread that Monday will be utterly anti-climatic. Waiting all that time for a dull draw or another Watford-like performance does not bear thinking about.

Thankfully today we were spared that. But only just. In the end it was fairly easy. A comfortable 2-0. But in the first half they should have had a penalty. And if it was not for Cechs brilliant save onto the post we’d have been 1-0 down. And then he’s second save before half-time stopped them equalizing. And imbetween our best player – Monreal – cleared a certain goal of the line.

So going into half-time we could not have complained if we were drawing if not losing.

The second half was better (it helps to have the lead I’ve heard). And then we did control the game and should have added a third. But, to be fair, if their claim for a penalty was not given I would not have expected our appeal to be granted. I’m impressed that Madley gave us this one. I’d feel pretty hard don’t by if I was a WBA fan – but then why, for the love of god would I – or anyone – be a WBA fan.

What did we learn today then? Primarily that Monreal is god-like and he and Kolasanic have nailed down our left hand side.

That Mustafa is still a truly shit defender. What the fuck was he doing going to ground in the penalty area in the first half. Another referee would have awarded a penalty against us and changed the course of the entire game. In this instance the attacker was not even going to goal but was running out of space. This is exactly the time to shepherd the play out of bound and only a retard would go to ground. But then Mustafa is a retard. He is a liability. His distribution is shit and he’s judgement is reckless. There was a time in the second half when he went charging for the ball in their half, missed it and left the entire defense exposed. I just wish Holding or Chambers or the BFG could claim that spot.

In midfield Xhaka had one of his worst games. He was sloppy all over the pitch (a nasty image I know). He gave the ball away in his own half a couple of times and, more generally, was very slow on the ball. I’ll put this down to one bad game but it’s still a little worrying that he can be so casual on the ball.

Elneny was a little better but not great. He was also a little slow in distribution. The difference is that he works a lot harder and, by the second half, was linking up play much quicker.

But this combination will be ripped apart by better teams than WBA.

Ramsey was a fault for their two first half breakaways (as was Xhaka for one of the tem and Elneny the other). But his forward movement is excellent. He gave their defense problems the entire game. He’s clearly better suited to the Ozil position than the holding midfield one. I’m just not sure he’s as creative as Ozil – though he’ll score more goals than the German. The creativity though came from Alexis. He’s still a little off his best – he needs more game time – but he was the only true creative force out there. Roaming over the pitch and finding Ramsey arriving in the box late. After a few more games, those passes will come off.

And don’t you love Cigarette? A real goalscorer. A fox in the box. But he can play outside of it as well. He’s control and speed fit so neatly into our set up. I’m sure he will develop a strong relationship with both Alexis and Ozil. And this guy will hit 20 goals this year (assuming he stays injury free).

And finally, to go back to our defense. Cech and Monreal. Outstanding. Both kept us in this game. I don’t think Monreal lost a ball the entire game. Every challenge – every pass – every move – was perfect today. Gibbs, who played well, was right to move on. No-one can replace Monreal when he’s in this form.

OK, now it’s time to play switch as we get ready for a journey into the middle of nowhere for the NoHoppa Cup. Let’s rest most of todays players and send them Theo and Ospina. Let the others get ready for Sunday.

-LB7

Sept 17th – Chelski 0 Arsenal 0

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Oh, so we do know how to defend. Imagine that. What a novel concept. Who would have thought we could keep a clean sheet at the Politburo? Maybe we should play Bournemouth and Chelski each week. They obviously have reverse kryptonite. They manage to turn us into a functioning team.

When I saw Ob1 on the team sheet I feared the worst. I checked that we had Cigarette and the Tank. Fearing we’d have gone instead for Theo and The Ox – given that he’s not played at Anfield and that AW might have forgotten about the £35m burning a hole in his pocket. But thankfully they were both in the lineup. For the first 15 minutes the Russians played a high tempo, one touch and fast interplaying game that threatened to tear us apart. I figured the mad Italian must have read the riot act pre-game. Jumping up and down while simultaneously combing his hair in order to maintain that suave, debonair image.

But in time we worked our way into the game. A fine move down the right hand side set up Mr. Goalscoring machine DW23. But, rather than commeth the man cometh the goal instead we had the predictable. When we need that goal he is the right man to spurn the opportunity. Deciding to use his head not shoulders he still found a way to miss the target. Yet more memories of Anfield came flooding back. But rather than capitulate we started to dominate the game. Cigarette had a (tough) chance care of our Ob1 and Bellend interplay. And then Ramsey went on a mazyrun to only hit the post and see Cigarette stumble the ball over the bar. I still have a lot of time for our new Frenchmen. This was a hard chance that he should have taken but I’ll, at this point, be grateful, he was, at least, in the (nearly) right position.

The second half started like the first but this time we never really got back into the game. The Crimea team had more possession but hardly drew a save from Cech. There were periods where we had some nice possession but our right side dominance disappeared as they made adjustments. Daylight was created as David Louis tried to murder The Tank and rightfully got a straight red. But that left too little time for us to snatch a winner.

So we learned that Arsenal do actually know how to play the game, remain organized and take a disciplined approach to an away game. Which, of course, begs the question what the fuck happened at Anfield. The fear is that because of that spanking we adopted this more pragmatic approach. But, now we’ve had this display my money is on reverting back to type in the next big away game.

Today Monreal was immense. Rarely beaten down his side and dominant in the air. On the right Koz was solid and stabilizing. And in the middle we had our mad Kraut. Morata was pretty impressive today. A number of times he turned the Kraut and made some great runs. Most other teams won’t keep him from scoring. Someone needs to injure him quickly. Mustafa tried but was too slow. And again, some of his long fields distribution was awful.

Both AR8 and Xhaka dropped deeper to pick up the ball from the defense which removed some pressure from the backline. I suspect this was mainly due to our more conservative approach. That is, we were just sitting deeper more generally.  Xhaka was, as ever, a little careless with his passing but Ramsey was quite impressive today. Without the skillful German ahead of him we was able to break into the space ahead of him on a number of occasions. He’s passing was intelligent and his forward play propelled the team. And he should have scored. But he occupied Konti and put him under pressure quickly. The problem is that too often he and Xhaka play the same position. Literally. There was a time in the first half when they were stumbling into each other. Defensively they don’t exude confidence. But with Ob1 and DW23 working hard on defense we were more solid on the wings but just vulnerable through the middle. If only we had a Konti…..

With this new found stability we also sacrificed our creativity. I’m still not sure why we had Ob1 rather than Alexis in the starting 11. Sure Ob1 worked hard – a la DW23 – but you can’t rationally argue that there is anyone on planet earth you’d select Ob1 over Alexis. With DW23 incurring his usual injury it looks like he’ll be out for a while and therefore this “choice” won’t come up again for a while. Of course, it also means that it’s Ramseys turn next for his regular hamstring injury. The question becomes, would we have had this defensive work rate and cover if little Mesut had been able to play? We’d have been more threatening but at what cost? Without him we should have been 2-0 before half-time. But with him would we have kept a clean sheet?

Cech is the one player who has been consistently reliable this year. His save from Pedro was pivotal. If we had let one in then who knows how our mental psyche would have handled that.

It’s hard to enjoy watching this team as you think you’re one errant Xhaka pass away from implosion. But today we turned up. But to be a team challenging for the league (or even the top 4) the bar should not be so low that we are grateful that we come away from Red Square without being embarrassed. The Commies will have better days – you could see the impetus that Hazard provided. And today we had our chance to actually win there. But our collective confidence is so low we all end up being relieved to come away with a point. At some point we have to demonstrate the organization and discipline over a 10 match period to restore both our credibility and nerves. The agony of waiting for and then recovering from the next fiasco requires too much therapy. And it’s not even March yet.

So onto the tough encounter with Doncaster Rovers in the who-the-fuck-knows-what-cup-its-called. More opportunity for the BFG and Nelson to impress. And the onto the return of Gibbs. Then back to the NoHopa Cup. Many chances then for the other squad players to shine. And for us to relax and not worry so much about the outcome

-LB7

Sept 9th – Arsenal 3 Bournemouth 0

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Let’s play Bournemouth every week please. That was easy. So easy. I’m confident that if we played a 38 game season only playing them we’d win the league. On the basis they were all home games.

How poor were Bournemouth? So bad that WorseBeck looked like Nearly-a-PlayerBeck. For goodness sake, he scored two goals. The first one classic Wellbeck – in off his shoulder. The second one was more like that Cigarette. To be fair he worked hard and chased them down. Can’t fault the guy from being hard working; just for not being a football player. He’s an improved version of Theo. Though Theo is superior in the after match interview.

Ozil cruised through the game, control play and making a series of exquisite passes. One of these lead to the beautiful second goal form Cigarette. Very TH14 that one. Lady and Gentlemen, we have ourselves a real striker! This boy can play. It would be interesting to see him and Alexis on the pitch at the same time. The triangle with Cigarette, Alexis and Ozil could be a thing of beauty. Some of our one touch passing today was outstanding. As it would be in any training session when the opposition decides not to close you down. Nonetheless, it was pleasure to watch at times. We purred along quite nicely indeed.

Of course, there are still a number of issues we have to contend with. Namely, we’re not a team that can compete for the top 4 spots. On our day we can pull apart even the most dire team (thank you Bournemouth). But the balance still looks off. I’m not convinced that Xhaka and Ramsey can function as the backbone of this team. Both, individually, played pretty well. Ramseys’ late runs into the box will generate goals. But neither of them provide the defensive cover for our defense. The move to swap out Ramsey for our Coq was correct. But then our Coq blew out his hamstring. So that’s him gone for 6+ weeks. He’ll be joining Santi in the recovery room – our best midfield pairing from 2 seasons ago both sidelined. Today we saw both Xhaka and AR8 move upfield at the same time and often get caught the wrong side of the ball. We’ll miss Coq – and that’s before AR8 picks up his own obligatory yearly hamstring injury. I think we all knew we were short in this area of the team. It could have been a perfect time to play Ox there J

It was interesting to see how they tried to high press our back line. Neither of AR8 or Xhaka drop to receive the ball (well, sometimes Xhaka does – and that’s where he’s vulnerable to turnovers) and that makes playing out from the back much harder. Against Chelski it will be much more illuminating.

Kolasinac returned back to earth today. Still way better than either Gibbs or Ox. But his distribution was a little wayward. And like Bellend, he allows too many crosses into the box. But going forward he’s smart and make pretty good decisions – unlike Bellend. We got this guy for free and received £40+ for these other two. That’s a good trade. I’m sorry that Ox left to the degree it reinforces the messages that he’s moved off to a “winning” team. But there’s no way he’s worth that sum nor will he find a central midfield role there. But I liked the boy (no, not in that way kind sir).

We nearly lost Mustafi and I’d still prefer the £35m we could have received. He did not play too poorly today. But, yet again, he displayed his tendency to too aggressively jump in and also go to ground too quickly. That is a recipe for disaster and/or his next sending off. And, without a Santi-like midfielder to take the ball from him he’ll continue to launch his Kolo-eque aimless, long ball passes.

One game does not make a season – unless, of course, it’s a game an Anfield. It’s not clear whether we learned too much today. Maybe that Eddie Howe is not going to be our new manager. It took him 70+ minutes to change a clearly failing team formation. Of course, I’m sure we’ll make him look Guardiola-like when we play at their place.

OK, short and sweet today. I’ve enjoyed the two week break post-Anfield. To be away from the train wreck that is AW and AFC. Today extended that period by an extra few days. At least until we visit the Russians on Sunday. That will be our judgement day. Can we compete? I have my doubts. The same fears persist. We added two great players but failed to strengthen the backbone of our team. And Chelski will surely expose this. But it’s still a little too early to get suicidal about this team. There’s plenty of time for that. That’s what March is for.

-LB7

 

 

 

August 31st – End of the Transfer Window and the End of Arsene

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The title says it all really. The fiasco that we witnessed will just about seal the end of Arsene’s reign as King of Arsenal.

Though it might not rest entirely at his feet he will surely carry the burden of this complete fiasco; the worst possible outcome on some many dimensions. It will leave fans dispirited and vexious. Going forward, the first sign of difficulty (which will be within a game or two) and the entire fan base will turn on him. He’s position will be unsustainable.

How could this possible have come about?

By advertising the interest in Lamar so early on in the transfer window we clearly signaled our intent. To then be rebuffed because we were not in the CL is plain ridiculous. How could the club have not known about this issue? We have known for a while now – since the season ended I think – that we weren’t in the CL. So how, in our discussions over the last 3 months did we not know this. That’s incompetent. Also, it’s not entirely believable. Beneath this rejection lies another reason.

Unfortunately, when Man U were out of the CL they could still attack key players. That’s how they were able to rebuild. They bought Poga. They brought in Ibra. And others. It did not seem to impair their re-build. How can this be? This is not to same say we’re the same as Manu. The difference, I fear, is that those players knew there was a manager in place that was committed for many years to a rebuilding process. Whereas at Arsenal the one thing you know is that the manager won’t be there in a couple of years (if not sooner). This is the first time that lack of clarity on our manager has been a deterrent to signing players. Worse, this is from the French league – in fact, his old club. It would seem that AW has finally lost his allure to attract the players we need. How embarrassing is it when three of his French compatriots can’t convince Lamar to join us. What a disaster. This tells us where we stand in the pecking order of clubs more than anything. And, to be clear, let me restate the only viable conclusion. it can’t merely be CL related. It’s AW related.

And, to compound this issue we spent the entire summer stating in black and white, with 100% conviction that we would never sell Alexis. I understand that negotiations have to take place behind closed doors and that you can’t reveal your hand. But, in the last 12 hours to change position and then scramble and fail to bring in a replacement is pathetic. Now we are left with a deflated Alexis. Someone who fully expected to be able to get out of the hell that is AFC. So, rather than release him from his sentence he’ll sign a pre-nup with ManCIty and he’ll leave for nothing. Not £60m but zero. How is that possible? How is that “good” business? Where is the accountability for this? And what does it do to our credibility? When we say someone is not for sale who’s going to believer us? I know I won’t. And what a way to blow £60m.

So today was a shambles and embarrassment of historic proportions. We had three months to prepare for this and failed on so many levels. How did we let Ox leave for Liverpool for £35m and not bring in a replacement? What about Mahrez? I’m not too sad to see Ox leave. I respect that he wants to play in central midfield. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong but I would not want to see him in that position at Arsenal. I respect he did not take our money or the increase grubby money on offer at Chelski to be the backup to Moses. Now he’ll wander up north and wait for Henderson or Emre to get injured. Good luck to him. We got a tidy sum for him. But were was the replacement plan? How dispiriting is it for the rest of the squad.

Then we thought we’d got rid of Mustafi only for him to come right back home. Nor could we offload Dubuchy. And yet we sold BigEars. And we know we have one BFG who will retire in a year and one SFG who we don’t’ want but would have received £35 for him. Sure we finally sold Gibbs and Woz and we loaned out Perez along with Campbell.

What happened with Dick Van Dyck? Why could we not have acquired him with Theo as a (not)make  weight?

How can fans believe this squad is any better than the bunch of wankers that were shamed on Sunday? If anything, we’re worse off though the club have more money.

This, I fear, is the end for AW then. No-one has faith that this squad can get us back to the top 4. And he’s lost his magic in attracting the highest quality players. Remember, he was talking to Mbappe last year (when we were still in the CL) and AW could not sell him on AFC back then.

Where does this leave us? In the wilderness for, at least, a couple of years. And the changes don’t merely relate to AW. This happened on Gazidis’ watch. He’s the CEO. He is ultimately responsible. As is Silent Stan.

We not only wasted £60m by not selling Alexis, not invest the £35 from Ox but we officially became a joke in the eyes of all other clubs. We have no strategy and no plan. And we have a manager that can’t attract the worlds’ best players – he has lost his credibility. Ouch.

I desperately felt the need to post the thoughts because I just know every other websites will be saying the exact same thing. In this 3 month transfer window we have managed to squander all the good will created with our F A Cup win. Yet we’ve now suffered through the worst 5 days i can remember at Arsenal since the days when Stuart Robson graced our midfield at Highbury in the ’80s.

We have consigned all Arsenal fans to a long dark winter. And as GoT comes to it’s glorious end so does the reign of AW. And just as we don’t know who will gain control of the Iron Throne nor do we know who will inherit the poisoned chalice. The fear is that the White Walkers have already gained control at Arsenal.

– LB7

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 27th – Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0

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Really?

Multiple choice question to start. How would you describe the Arsenal performance today?

  1. Insipid
  2. Abject
  3. Spineless
  4. Embarrassing

Answer -> All of the above

It started with the team selection and then went south from there. In retrospect last week was not so bad after all. At least at Stoke we played. This week we were entirely absent.

The funny thing is that Bad – or Worse – Beck had a chance to put us 1-0 up but failed to even hit the target. I’m so sick of this guy. How can you start him ahead of Cigarette? And if you want to rest our new signing barely 2 games into a season then at least start Giroud instead.

There is just too much to cover; too many depths to plunge. And I’m too depressed. The futility of watching an unbalanced team that’s unprepared for the predictable approach of Liverpool is shocking. Or maybe the fault is with me and my expectation. After all this time, it’s maybe time not to be shocked. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

As with previous games the causal play of Xhaka set up their first goal – along with Bellends weakness. That’s two games in a row where Xhaka lost possession too easily. The combination of him and Ramsey provides no defensive cover. Yet when we replace Ramsey with our Coq we then leave it to Bellend to make a(nother) schoolboy error to seal the game (unless you’re Newcastle playing at home to us and being 4-0 down). Truly pathetic. How does anyone do that?

Yet we kept him and WorseBeck on the field the entire game. If only you could sub out an entire team. The mental fragility was there for us all to see. At least when we were crushed at ManU 8-2 we knew we had some truly shit players on the field. Today though we had our full team at our disposal. We had no excuses. Yet we were not up for the game nor did we even come close to looking like a team. I doubt we had a shot on target and I doubt there was any period where we actually tested them in any way. There was no cohesion. There was no desire. There was no effort.

How can this be? This is not just at the feet of AW. How can players cave in like this? Where is their desire? Pride? Enthusiasm? I have no clue at this point. It’s one of the few times in my life where I’m greeting the International break with open arms. I will enjoy a two week break from the trauma of watching our team.

Rather than ripping through each of our players I’d prefer to single out the one player who performed – Peter Cech. Without him in goal we’d have lost by a bunch more.

But really, Bellend? Sorry to harp on about this. But when will he be dropped? If we can drop the Bosnian Tank why can’t we drop our Spanish Metrosexual?

I felt a little sorry for Holding. I know he made a couple of important mistakes but he had very little protection in front of him. That should not be an explanatory factor. He has to know which foot Mane prefers to shot with and he can’t’ loose the ball to easily. I still prefer him to Mustafi. I still feel he has potential. But, given that we’ve seen him make the same mistakes multiple times, then maybe I’m insane.

So as drained as I am after watching this crushing non-performance it does beg a few question. Beyond that is, the issue of what was AW thinking and why did it take him so long to change our tactics. Do we believe today was an aberration? Or a fair representation of what to expect this year? My suspicion is that any team built on Xhaka and Ramsey will come up short against the top teams.

As such, just maybe, we should not just cash out on Ox for £35 but also bank the money for Alexis. That way we’d have a war chest of £100 so that next season we can restock this team with, dare I say it, a new manager. Let’s not waste the money. I do love Alexis. But he’s wasted on this team. By himself he can’t get us to be contenders. He can’t get us into the Champions League. In which case, why waste a year of his career and waste that money. If we can’t get Lemar this year, then wait another year. But get the money first.

We should sell Theo and get any pounds we can. And if someone wants Bellend or WorseBeck, we should snap their hand off. I like Cigarrette and the Tank. I like Cech. But  who else would you build this team around? Monreal has a couple more years left; likewise Koz. Where is the future of this team? I suspect in the distant past.

Today was utterly inexcusable. We’re barely two weeks into a new season. How can the team be so unprepared? How can WorseBeck miss that chance that would have changed the entire course of the game. Where is the accountability for that performance? And not just from WorseBeck.

Here’s the thing, as good as Liverpool were we made them look far better. They will have tougher games against West Brom and Watford than they did against us. Shit, they most probably had a harder game against Crystal Palace. It’s not so much that at we got outplayed. We just did not play.

I’m exhausted by the ineptitude of this team. I have grown so used to the February/March meltdown that I had also got used to watching the exciting football we produce at the start of the season. Now even that has been taken away from me.

Post the 8-2 ManU loss we went panic shopping as the transfer window closed. This time I fear AW will not do what’s needed. He needs to sell Ox and Mustafi; neither of which are worth £35. And then buy a central defender and a defensive midfield player. If we’re not going to do that. If we not going to build a spine for this team then sell Alexis. Set the boy free. Set his dogs free.

OK, now I’m off to dig a large whole in the back garden and bury myself until this season is over. And only after 3 games – that’s some kind of new record.

-LB7