May 12th – Chelsea 0 Arsenal 1

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Dreary, dogged, dour Arsenal eek out three points. That was simultaneously painful and invigorating to watch. One commentator compared us to Sheffield United. The same commentator would previously decries Arsenal as not having a backbone. We’re either boring and defensive yet gaining points. Or they complain we can’t tough it out and win games.

That’s exactly what we did. Did we have some luck. Sure. Maybe it’s payback for Everton, Wolves and countless other games when we were genuinely unlucky. Here, we defended and forced Chelski to play sideways and backwards. We made them look like us when we lost to Leicester. Except then were were savaged by the media and Leicester were acclaimed for their tactical masterpiece. How Brendan had outsmarted Arteta. That’s just the hypocrisy we have to live with. And, worst of all, it’s compounded by our own fans. We won. We got 3 points. And I bet all we’ll hear is how it’s too little too late. How our style was abject – which, of course – it was. So what. Those fans that chased out Wenger are now intent on repeating the same trick with Arteta. They have made up their little minds and just want to complain. We actually beat Chelsea twice this season. But instead we’ll hear about the Everton, Leicester etc results.

More on this later. Back to this game. We were organized and dour. But Arteta clearly had a plan. This was like the approach he adopted that won us the F. A Cup last year. Tactics tuned to the specific opposition. He re-introduced a back three. Thus we had to see both Gabriel and Mari consistently give the ball away with their wayward distribution. But they defended solidly with able assistance from Holding. They were always under pressure and weren’t helped by Leno who would often take too long to pass the ball. But that’s because he’s indecisive and was not built to play this way. He’s more old school. He blocks shots (most of the time) and stuff like that. He does not do so well with the ball at his feet.

Of course, their high press was more smothering than ours. But then we really just had one forward. But the little pressing we did resulted in our sole goal and sole shot in the first half. It was the exact outcome that we would have expected from our defense trying to play it out the back. In the second half we continued to gift them the ball outside of our penalty area. For example Elneny tee’ing up Giroud. Or Gabriel on numerous occasions giving them the ball. We were overrun for long periods but we played a deep blocked and gave them no chance to really test Leno. It as tough to watch but they lacked the creativity to unlock our defense. Again, it was a role reversal for Arsenal. And it worked. We will not play like this in every game and even when we do we’ll lose quite often. But needs must. We – like them – were knackered. Saka is done. He’s on empty at this point. Odergaard is already on his holidays. And Tierney is one step away from another injury. And now Bellerin has likely played his last game for us. It’s a shame to see him leave in these circumstances. He’s given us 10 years and deserves the opportunity to play elsewhere.

Elneny was so industrious today. He never stopped running and working hard. Partey started the game by making two errant passes but then seemed to settle down. He really is a very good defensive midfielder though. He shielded the back three and understands how to best position himself. Together they helped snuff out Chelsea. Smith-Rowe ran himself into the ground and did his best to help Tierney. On the other side Saka got so little help from Odergaard. The latter reminds me of Ozil when he defends. He never tracks his player preferring to point to the player and expect someone else to track back. A better team would have exploited that. Holding really was solid again today. He is very underrated. He’s had a remarkable season given his previous injury. There’s no way he could have expected to have played this number of games this season.  Mari made his usual one cock-up per game but somehow their most expensive of strikers managed to find the empty stand. That and when they hit the cross-bar twice towards the end of the 90 minutes indicated that today was destined to be ours.

We as fans are so myopic. We (well, not me, of course) decide on a narrative and then fit all the data to re-enforce our prior view. Whether it be that Arteta can’t take this team forward to us needing new owners to invest in the team. Yet when we’ve invested – Partey, Aubameyang contract, Odergaard – that is ignored because it does not support peoples priors. And Arerta, we’re told, has had a miserable season and needs to be replaced. And yet, those same supporters also want stability and growth. But seem unaware of the contradiction with replacing your manager in less than 18 months. Sure we should have beaten Villarreal but let’s not kid ourselves we’re a Champions League team (yet). Judge Arteta after 3+ years. Support him now. Support the team. But it seems our fans view the glass as half empty. Yes, we’re a mid-table team. What did you think would happen this year. We always knew we needed 3 or 4 transfer windows to fix this team. Look how much better Chelski were today. That’s because they spent trillions of dollars every minute on buying everyone. We should focus on building around Saka and ESR. Of course it was this reverse fixture that saw the two illuminate our team and give us hope. And maybe it was that hope that blinded us to the known reality. It caused us to raise our expectations. And now everyone is pissed off because we’re not in the top 4.

It seems this cloud of pessimism has overtaken our club. Maybe it’s because people have lost faith in Arteta. But it seems that there’s this perception that we’ve had a disastrous season. Really? We got to the semi-finals of the NoHoppaCup. We’ve had some wonderful performances. We hear people harp on about losing so many games – 13 – and saying that’s unacceptable. Really? Have you seen the other teams in this league. All season long – without fans in the stadiums – teams have lost more games at home and we’ve seen more surprising results. The media get paid to push these story lines. That Arsenal is in disarray. That Arenal have had a terrible season. Yet the season is not quite over. And I wonder if they’ve been watching what’s been going on with that other lot. Now that really is what I’d call a car wreck. And they are about to lose their once in a generation captain. Not that that’s the benchmark. But, again, for Arsenal it’s not the end of the world. Yet. And it’s the same people that chased out Wenger. They have the attention span and patience of a fly. And the selective memory of a fly. Sorry all those flies reading this blog. But then you’ll forget this in another second anyway.

After an unexpected and valuable win at Chelski rather than be uplifted and happy (well I’m a little uplifted), instead, like our manager, I’m pissed off. He’s after match interview was instructive. He was aggressive and unhappy. I feel the same way. I’m pissed off. We were never as bad as our own fans have claimed nor as good as they thought when we put together a winning streak. How can any team be effective when you have Willian, Ceballos, Eddie in your squad. We’ve finally dumped Mustafi, Kolinsac, Sokratis and Ozil. Come back in 12 months and we’d have cleaned out 5 more players. But we knew all this. So why are our fans so unhappy with Arteta now? They need to channel their frustration to Kroneke. Because that’s a match made in heaven. Our deaf owner and our loud-mouth idiot fans.

So, well done Arteta for gaining three unearned points. It’s about time we won against the balance of the play. It’s about time we had some luck. They say over the course of a season that decisions average out. This was our make up game. Enjoy it. I’m sure normal service will be resumed again Palace.

A word on one of my favorite subjects. VAR. Today it felt like they made some changes such that all VAR decisions were rapid. No long delays and no stupid decisions. Maybe that was luck as well.


May 6th – Arsenal 0 Villarreal 0

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Gdansk is gone. Until the 75th minute I had thought we’d sneak a goal. But then I realized the gods and ourselves were against us. Who would have guessed we would keep a clean sheet. Or that we would not have scored. We had some chances and on another day – or in a few years – ESR will show more composure in front of goal.

As frustrating as it is it’s not clear that we would have benefits from going to Gdansk to lose in the final again. And we’re certainly not a Champions League team. Maybe, as painful as it is to accept, we might benefit by being out of Europe for one year. It will be the ultimate test for Arteta. There won’t be any hiding of acceptance of us being unable to win something or finish in the top 6. Anything else next year and he’ll be gone. Not that I agree. One benefit of tone deaf owners is that they won’t change the manager this summer. There will be pleas to bring in someone else. That would be a disaster. Though it’s not clear what manager would now want to come to a team that is not in Europe next year. Maybe that’s another blessing for Arteta. He needs a couple of windows to re-fit this team. Let’s not forget he did win a cup last year. And this year has been crazy.

Back to todays game. They swamped our creativity and we did take advantage of the few chances we had. We looked tired and limited.

Too many players did not step up. Saka was muted as was ESR. Odergaard was none existent. Bellerin rather than Chambers was our threat on the right. Hence most of our creativity play came from the left. Tierney was restrained and played within himself – there was no way he was fully fit. Aubameyang was clearly not there either. Put it all together – one long excuse I know – No Xhaka, Aubeyang and Odergaard and Tierney not quite fit. Saka drained after a long season. And Pepe being Pepe. We did not have enough force or stamina or luck to get that goal

Maybe we saved ourselves that trip to Gdanks to only have to loose to Man U. I feel like this team is strung out and needs a rest. Well, boy, will we get one next year. No Europe for us. Arsenal truly bought into the idea of Brex-it. Or in this case Arse-it

Loosing Xhaka clearly changed the balance of the team. Having a single holding midfielder – Partey – was limiting. Neither ESR or Odergaard could penetrate their packed midfield. We barely tested their goalkeeper. We are a feast or famine team. And today, in the most important game, we were famine. There were a few periods where we generated momentum – mainly in the second half – and each time Villarreal shut us down. Slowing the game days, faking injuries and basically showing how to manage a game out.

If you had a choice of Coquelin or Partey for your defensive midfield player who would you pick? Based on todays evidence it’s not obvious. Party was piss poor today. Too often caught on the ball. Too often slowing the game down. He rarely made a forward pass (aside from a few long balls). He seemed like a liability. He was one of our biggest disappointments today. After his contributions early in the season I think he’s lost his way with this team. And maybe that’s happened since he lost Xhaka alongside him. But today was one of his more careless and error prone performances. Not what you’d expect in such a big game.

Another questions is, based on these two games (and the balance of the season) would we have done better if Emery was our manager. No fucking way. Shoot me now. I’d be dead from boredom. Never would I want him back. Yet he’s been more successful at Villarreal in a shorter period of time than Arteta has had at Arsenal. Yet most people would argue that player for players Arsenal are superior to Villarreal. So how to make sense of this. I can’t.

I should be more upset – writing this a few hours after the game helps – but this was always going to be a long project. The last thing we can afford now is to change managers yet again. We have to stick with Arteta for at least another year. Let’s see what changes happen in the summer. It’s time for an improved midfield. Someone to compete with Partey. Someone to displace Xhaka. And someone to replace Ceballos.

But before we dissect the entire season – there will be plenty of time for that – we need to understand how we could be so tepid for such long periods of the game today. No-one seemed to want take on responsibility for trying to create. Again, I’m convinced Odergaard has not fully recovered from his injury and ESR was marginalized. And Saka looks down and out after a long season. Take those 3 out and add in a Tierney who could barely get up and down the touchline and we would have problems. And did I mention that Aubameyang and Cigarette are not fit either. Yes, more excuses.

Most fans though will go after Arteta. He’ll handle that. And so will Kroneke. My hope is the mistakes he’s made – the false 9 in the first leg – will be experiences he can learn from. Because once the fans return the pressure will mount on him. Maybe I’m being too loyal to him. Maybe he is not the right manager. But, we need more time to make that judgment. We can’t afford the revolving door that was ManU or that lot down the road. We have to stick by him and be patient. We have no other choice. Sorry.

So herein endeth our season. What a meek way to go out. No crashing everything into their goal. No breakneck finish. No do or die. Just die. Maybe that’s where we missed the fans. But finishing with Willian and Eddie on the pitch is not exactly what you’d need to snatch a goal. Such a shame. I really thought we’d get through this tie. It really is a little embarrassing for the club. Not missing out on a final but more how quietly we went out. Where were our on field leaders today? None that I could see. Maybe we should have had Martinelli on earlier. And it’s preferable for him to operate on the left. See him collide with Cigarette in their penalty area just smacked of panic. They were both player the same position at that point. And yet we’d lost Ska to left back. That’s on Arteta. Let’s hope he learns.

I need to take a break. I’m getting more negative the more I think about this. Just as I’d started to recover and convince myself we could use this experience to focus next year on building our league position. It brings us back to Arteta. So let’s leave that for another day.


May 2nd – Newcastle 0 Arsenal 2

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Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. I’m sure I’ve said this before but I’m sure we’d win the Premier League if we could only play Newcastle each week. They really are a weak and directionless team. Thankfully. The perfect opponent for us. How bad are they I hear you ask? They are so bad that Ceballos looked like a moderately plausible excuse of a football player.

Our favorite Egyptian snatched the first one after another Aubameyang shanked shot. And then after more good work by Martinelli Aubameyang went all Karate Kid to grab the second. We kept a clean sheet but lost David Luiz, I fear, for the season and, with his contract running down, for ever. It’s a shame because as annoying as he is there is no-one who quite reads the game like him.

I’d hoped to see Cedric at left back. But it seems that Xhaka is stuck there for a while longer. I’m pretty sure neither Tierney not Cigarrette will be back for Thursday. So maybe Elneny will join Partey in midfield on Thursday. This would have been a fine time to let Xhaka return to midfield against the nonexistence threat of Newcastle. I can barely remember the steady midget that is Matt Ryan had a save to make. Ryan’s distribution is quicker and more decisive. If only he was 2 inches taller.

Bellerin finally got some minutes. He continues to play like Hector – a thinking mans Walcott. All speed with little football IQ. All speed but no control. With Gabriel making up the defense a ½ way decent team would surely scored. Thankfully Newcastle aren’t ½ decent. We torched them down the left hand side via Martinelli. Even with idiot boy Ceballos  dithering on the ball too long we still manage to create down the left. Whereas on the right the lethal combination of Bellerin and Willian was sufficient to put everyone else to sleep. Backwards and sideways. Except for Bellerin helping with the first goal. So I’m being a little unfair on him. But not on Willian. After being benched for many weeks this was time to shine. Except he’s too dull to shine. He’s too lazy to track back and too slow to attack and beat his man. Relatively speaking he came alive a little in the second half when, with a swath of substitutions, he moved move infield.

Getting minutes for Odergaard was important. With the weaker players alongside him it was harder but it was good that he got to develop his match fitness. It’s not clear whether he’ll start on Thursday. But at least it’s clear that Willian won’t. And we’ll somehow have to survive without Ceballos.

So today should have been a pleasant, relaxing experience. Cruising past a dormant Newcastle. Except we had to deal with the interruption from Old Trafford with breaking news that their fans are fucking retards operating under the banner of being against the Glaziers. How does that work? What are they complaining about? That team remain in a Champions League spot, recently won the NoHopaCup and were in the Champions League this year. They continue to invest/spend millions on Pogba, Fernandez, Maquire, Shaw, Cavani, Wan Bissaka and that Dutch player. So what are they complaining about? That they are American? He’s the reality. They are scum. They are thugs. They are idiots. They are morons. They should be banned for live. The trespassed. They should be held accountable. They are yobs just drinking bear and behaving like “lads”. I hope, but fear otherwise, that the media won’t give them the oxygen to hear their complaints. Whatever they are. Maybe it’s that they have no brains. Or dicks. BTW, did you notice the colour complexion? And gender make-up? This lot could have been part of the storming of the Capital on January 6th. Same kind of fucked up mentality. And, worse of all, this shit interrupted the Newcastle game. Unforgivable.

Like the Storming of the Capital, where the fuck were the police? How did these morons get to break into the stadium and then wander around uninterrupted for an hours. Run onto the pitch, grab TV cameras and break them? And then return an hour later? How is this possible? Surely even the police watch TV. Why didn’t someone call them in early? And then it took just 7 of them to clear the stadium? I don’t get any of this. Unless, inside United, there were conspirators – just like with the Capital Storming. Have you ever tried to gain access to a football stadium? It’s nearly impossible. And yet here, the United fans had been talking about this for weeks. So where was the surprise in what they did? Why was there no planning or preparation for this event? How did they make it so easy? And then we had to watch all the stewards stand around and watch the invasion take place? Who is running this club?

But don’t loose sight of the fact that these so-called fans are just piss-heads. No brains and no ideas. If they really hated the way United is run they have many avenues to pursue.

  • They could go and support the New Manchester FC that other fans actually created as a new club
  • They could organize a scheme to by shares in United and gain a voice
  • The could demonstrate outside the ground peacefully.

But they won’t do that because they are fucking retards, too stupid and just piss-heads who have gotten their 15 minutes of fame. They are hooligans and drunks. They were jumping on the goals and taking pictures. This had nothing to do with a demonstration and more to do with anarchy and piss-heads taking selfies while on the pitch. This was young kids having a lark. Don’t think there is anything noble going on here.

And again, what are they complaining about? If anyone should be demonstrating it should be Newcastle supporters. Now there is a club that is truly screwing their fans. Nearly all United fans are Jonny-come-latelys. They are so used to success they think it’s their inherent right. And yet, aside from suffering under Murinho, Moyes and LVG, they are still spending billions of dollars on players. What is their problem? I don’t understand. How would they have felt if the ESL had proceeded without them? Fuck them. I hate United even more now. If that’s possible. They are despicable. Bot their fans and their organization. At least with our fans demonstrate (aside from the morons at ATV) it’s more logical – we are a club in decline. But even our fans ignore the amount of money Kroneke is putting into the club. And, it was the fans who prematurely chased Wenger out of the club.

This is why you never want to listen to fans when it comes to your own club. The ESL was different because that was a common cause across all clubs – it was unifying call to action. Today we just saw a throwback to the painful thug days of the 80’s. The days prior to the success of the EPL. It can’t be condoned and can’t be accepted. This fans who stormed Old Trafford have to be held accountable. But I bet there is no appetite to do so. Because that club is losing its identify and has no backbone. They are now scared of their own fans. At least with Arsenal we know that’s not true of our owners. No, not at Arsenal. The owners are not scared. Because they don’t care. They are not listening. Welcome to Arsenal.

So, onto Thursday. This has been an interesting few weeks. First the ESL and now United thugs. The sooner this lockdown is unlocked the better. Then these idiots can just go down the pub and get hammered.

Maybe we can storm the Emirates on Thursday once Villarreal score a goal. Or sacrifice Ceballos on an alter outside the ground as an offering to the football gods. We need this one. Surely we can be as bad as we were last Thursday. And Villarreal can be as bad as Newcastle were. If only.


April 29th – Villarreal 2 Arsenal 1

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We were better with 10 men than when we had eleven. Thankfully, the referee after denying us a penalty finally took sympathy on us. You could see him look around the pitch and realize that Arteta would not make any necessary changes. So, the ref took matters into his own hands. He felt pity for Arsenal supporters and that he, like all of us, had had enough of Ceballos and so he sent him off. Best move of the game. This monumental cunt was getting roasted by a right back that can’t even get into the Sp*rs team. He gave the ball away consistently and exposed our meager defense of all sorts of problems. For once I also attribute blame to Arteta. After that rank first half he should have brought on Cedric and pushed Xhaka into midfield.  But back to Ceballos, I struggle to remember a bigger wanker. Someone who flatters to deceive. He slows down our game and flits around as though he’s an important player. He contributes nothing. He kills our game. Please, please give him back.

Can we beat them in the second leg? Here’s why we can – Ceballos is ineligible! What a trade losing both Ceballos and Capuoe. A double win for us.

Of course this does not excuse or ignore the horrible first half performance. Dire would be an understatement. We barely put any passes together and had no shape I could discern. Even then we nearly stole a penalty. VAR really does not like us. Yes, Pepe handled the ball but I did not know VAR could go that far back. I thought it could just review the foul for the penalty. Anyway, twice now in one week we’ve lost penalties to VAR.

Once we discarded Ceballos our play improved and we looked more threatening. Tonight was not one of Artetas’ better nights. His selection was wrong as was his tactics. And he was far too slow to adapt. Glad though I was to see Eddie on the bench the false 9 think did not work. Smith-Rowe was barely involved. But once we dropped into the #10 slot he started work get involved. And Saka, while remaining our primary threat, had a quiet night. But even then he got one penalty and should have had two.

There was a general sloppiness to our play. Chambers miss-controlled the ball on a couple of occasions and Holding was a little careless. But nothing is as careless as passing to Partey when he’s near their goal. I have yet to see any shot of his be on target let along cause a goalie to make a save. And his distribution was off as well. But part of that is because he had no-one with him in midfield. And there were few options ahead of him. When there were – once Aubameyang came on – he threaded the ball through to our club captain to tie the game up and Aubameyang fluffed his lines. Just as he has done previously in the NoHopaCup. This was a costly miss. But not as costly as all the misses of Villarreal. They should have put this game away in the first half as they were so dominant then. In fact, this game reminded me of the PSG v Man City game – except we had Ceballos and not DeBruyne. PSG should have been 3-0 up at half time and eliminated Man City in one half of football. Likewise for Emery. Instead they came out in the second half and went conservative – as any good accountant would – and allowed us back into the tie.

But let’s be fair, they will score against us. So we’ll have to score at least twice at the Emirates. We will have a one man advantage because Ceballos can’t play. So we’ll have a chance. Which we did not deserve after todays performance.

Arteta now has a week to figure this out. He can’t make as many mistakes as he made today. Sure the second half was better and we had chances to tie this up. It’s good to see Willian on the bench. It’s good that Martinelli is our first sub. But we have to figure out the right balance in midfield. We need to put Xhaka back there.

By the way did I mention that Ceballos was at fault for the first goal? Did I mention he’s a complete tosser.

Since my last review we’ve seen the complete implosion of the ESL and the continued disaster of VAR steal points from us. The issue with ESL was that it was dreamt up by people who literally have more money than brains. It proves you don’t have to be smart to be rich. I’m relieved this thing has collapsed. But don’t be fooled. The issues remain. And that is that Barcelona and Real Madrid are bankrupt and they need money. And they, like the other continental teams, are in leagues with no competitive balance. And, most importantly, no TV revenues to speak of. So, I don’t understand why the English teams joined in. While it might have generated more money for them it would also help a competitor that is in greater need while also destroying our EPL – which is the cash cow. So the fans saved them from their own mistake. But the need for money does not go away. There has to be consequences for not having match-day revenues for a year. And for the English top six, this would have been a quick fix. But it would have been disastrous.

But before I subscribe to #KroenkeOut I’d first propose #CeballosOut. And I’d have more chance of success. There is no way Kroenke is leaving. Ever. He’s never left a US team. He uprooted his NFL team and did not care in the slightest at the reaction of those fans. He’s not just Silent Stan he’s also Deaf Stan. So, get used to him, because he’s not going anywhere.

And here’s the thing. I’m happy that Arsenal were part of the ESL. Be honest, if the ESL had somehow manage to give birth and Arsenal were not involved – and even worse, Sp*rs were – how would these same fans react then? We had to be part of this. You could not afford to miss out on this. Let’s be clear we are not a top 6 English team at the moment (not that that lot are either). We were “honoured” to be included. But let’s not kid ourselves, we were there to make up the numbers. We were not the driver of this initiative. Whether we were in or out did not have any impact on the success of the ESL No-one was listening to our viewpoint. We did not make or break this. But, we had to be involved just in case it somehow succeeded. It’s always better to be on the inside rather than the outside.

And as for the righteous indignation from FIFA and UEFA was something to behold. This ESL idea was so inept it could make these two organizations actually seem less corrupt and self-serving that we all know them to be.

So, lastly for tonight – VAR. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. And I’m all in favour of it being used in football. At the moment it’s just not working. Not in the EPL anyway. The decisions I’m seeing make no sense and are not rational. And that’s because of the VAR referee. This person needs to be pitch-side and exposed to the crowd (when it returns) and accountable for their decisions. The one against Everton was fucking retarded. In reviewing the actual foul they looked back 20 plus second to find a microscopic offside that occurred in a different passage of play. Who asked them to do that? And how long did they take over that – 3+ minutes. How is that a clear and obvious error. We need to fix VAR and there are four ways to do this:

  • Junk it entirely
  • Limit the amount of time VAR has to make a decision to <20 seconds
  • Make the VAR assistant sit pitch side
  • Automate all VAR decisions right into the refs earpiece or watch (like goal-line technology).

Now we head up to play Newcastle. I’d hope we rotate a ton of players and relax. Maybe VAR will, now it’s done it’s damage, decide to give us a few decisions. It’s a shame it’s an irrelevant game. But hopefully some of the players can find their mojo again. And maybe someone can point out to Partey where the goal is.


April 18th – Arsenal 1 Fulham 1

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Disaster averted in the last second. I was convinced we’d never score today. From the first minute when Martinelli missed a chance to lob the ball in to the Pepe header – and two disallowed goals – it seemed the gods would not allow us to score.

But here’s the question, would you have taken the one point in exchange for loosing Cigarette for the rest of the season? That’s not a trade I want. I was resigned to loosing this game against VAR but not loosing Cigarette.

The first 20 minutes was reminiscent of the 7 minutes in Prague – without the goals. We were creative and exploited the ESR and Saka partnership. But over time Fulham crept back into the game. Even against a relegation team it’s hard to have both Elneny and Ceballos as your midfield. Too often these two are comfortable passing sideways and backwards. Only infrequently did they play through the lines.

It’s hard to be too critical after Thursday. The team selection was about right given the circumstances. I was happy to see Ryan in goal. And inevitable that Bellerin was due for a game. And happy Willian was bolted to the bench. And even happier when Bellerin came off. I’m sure I’ve said this before but Hector – as lovable as he is – is really a clone of Walcott. If Theo had played right-back this is how he would have played. His first touch is awful and his distribution is about the same. He does not read the game and positionally he is exposed. He disrupted our play down the right. There is not the natural fluency we have when he’s not there. We need to play him to both rest players and have him in the shop window. He’s clearly in the departure lounge given that we both need money from sales and that he’s really not developed his game over the last few years. One of our longest servants it’s time for him to explore new pastures and for ours to be able to re-invest that money. Hopefully we can get in excess of £20 for him.

Gabriel is a mystery. He’s very young and great in the air. But he has mental lapses. And today he was the culprit for the inevitable defensive mistake. I did not think this was a penalty though I could see how it was given. The attacker – some no-name tosspot – decided to fall over Gabriels boot. There was minimal contact but he initiated that contact and decided to go down like Harry Kane. But Gabriel should know better. Maybe that will come with experience.

With the introduction of Partey and Pepe – and the removal of Bellerin and Elneny – there was total domination. But by then Saka and ESR had tired and we lacked finishing. Eddie came on as a poor man replacement for Cigarette. Eddie is just not ready for Arsenal. He is great at poaching and saved our day right at the end. But he had a few changes before then – a lob on the goalie and a through ball from Saka and his first touch let him down both times.  But I was also disappointed in Martinelli. He had a couple of chances today and was not clinical enough. He is no Greenwood or Rashford. And fans clamoring for him to play are misguided in their optimism. He’s still very raw. And I’m not sure what his best position is. Left wing does not seem the best place for him. Maybe against Everton with no Cigarette or Aubamyang, then Martinelli can start as the #9. Because I don’t want to see Eddie there. Eddie will score goals but does not fit this team as grateful as I am for todays goal.  

Poor old Scotty. I have some sympathy for him. If that was up the other end I’d also be screaming for off-side. It’s hard to see how Holding – within the 6 yard area – was not effecting the peripheral vision of their goalie.  But given all the borderline VAR calls we suffered under today it was time one went our way. I was so sure we’d loose all three points. We seemed completely cursed today. It was a throw-back game for the ages where we just could not score. We’ve seen this before but not for a few season. And with Ryan in goal this would have been his second 1-0 lose. I’ve never been a fan of having the goalie come up for corners but he contributed with his little flick on and helped save our day. And then I was sure VAR would take this one away again. They really do need to speed up this VAR thing – it must be automated. Once the fans are back it will become so disruptive. Look at the way Ceballos celebrated the first non-goal. If the fans had been present their anger and frustration would have boiled over. You can’t let fans wait to celebrate a goal for 3 minutes nor let them celebrate for 3 minutes and then take away the goal.

It’s not clear we learned too much today. It was a game that should have been important for us. It should have been 3 points and a chance to get closer to automatic qualification. But, it’s not obvious we’ve ever been in a shot of that. It would have been nice to win – we had the chances early on – but it’s the 3 games in the NoHopaCup that are important. Which is why the loss of Cigarette along with Tierney is more worrying.

If we had taken our early chances we would have been out of sight today and we could have protected Cigarette. His performances in the last few weeks (aside from Liverpool) have helped glue Saka and ESR into the team. Without him I fear for our interplay as we try and create. This is why you need a deep squad. And we don’t have one.

We can be thankful that Willian did not come on and that ESR/Saka were not injured. Beyond that, it’s about Villareal now. Though Everton will be interesting. They won’t come and play defense. They need the points and have some decent players. This might suite our counterattacking game better. And it will give Martinelli a chance to get more game time and allow him to tune his scoring boots. Because we will need those. Again, I get the excitement about him and he’s certainly an upgrade of Eddie but I’m not sure how natural a goal scorer he is.

Sounds like the European Super League is back on the table. Maybe we should be fortunate to be considered part of that. It’s a terrible idea. But one that won’t go away. Of course it comes from the biggest continental teams because they play in leagues with no fans and few competitive teams in their league. The Premier League is the premier league in Europe. And this will just dilute that. It’s the connection between the fans and the team that propels the league. It’s the rivalries and history. It’s the close proximity of the teams. It’s the ease, cost and time for the fans to get to games that count. Having to play in Italy, Germany, France and Spain on a regular basis is not an affordable option for Premier League fans.

From a competitive point of few it’s basically a transfer of money to those clubs that have a ceiling on their upside. Why help your competitor out of a tough spot. If the likes of ManU/C, Liverpool (and us) held their ground and stayed in the existing structure they would have more incremental upside than a Juventus or Bayern. This new Super League helps them out because their leagues are shit and helps diminish the gap to our Premier League. It will alienate English fans and take us to the place where even when fans could return they won’t return. It’s not clear how this is stopped but this is not what is needed. The strength and appeal of English football is not what happens in Europe. Our strength is based on the bedrock of our teams and fans. And the useless FA need to manage and control this. Not by shutting it down but by providing creative solutions. In the same way FIFA/EUFA are generating variations on the same theme. The FA rather than reacting need to proactively think through how the Premier League can be improved. Maybe dropping one team and removing 2 games. Maybe redistributing revenues. But don’t sit around, doing nothing and wait for the other leagues to disrupt your league.

So now we have 5 days until Everton. Let’s hope that I’m wrong about the severity of Cigarettes injury. Let’s hope our medical team have a good week and can patch him back up. We’ll need him Spain and beyond.


April 3rd – Arsenal 0 Liverpool 3

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Anonymous Arsenal. Barely able to make three complete passes in a row. For once I wished the International break could have lasted even long. Then we would not have to force ourselves to stay awake as Arsenal slumbered their way through this game. We can come onto individual performances (or lack of) a little later. Overall there was nothing going on with this team. It was like that first half against West Ham but worse. There was not second half rebound here.

Sure Liverpool aren’t a shabby team and they have some good players. But how is it they won every single 50:50 ball? How is it that we could never hold onto the ball. We were unable to link up and create anything. We were so passive. We were, as last week, more like Spu*s than Arsenal.

All team have shitty matches. We seem to have more than our fair share. And, as ever, we can’t overreact. But, on the other hand. What the fuck. This was dreary and pointless. There was no believe. Which team turns up is so random. We’re like Jekyll and Hyde. We’re like Henry and Jeffers. Or Lehman and Alumina.

What did we learn today (aside from not watching such dross)? Not that much. Everything we’ve seen in the past we saw today. Though it’s rare to see it all unravel so quickly. It reminded me of the NoHopaCup v Chelski. We hung in there, defended stoutly and then made too many mistakes.

I like Gabriel as a defender; he’s young, physically strong and good in the air. But today two mistakes cost us two important goals. For the Salah goal I thought Leno could have done better – as he could with the first. It has me still wondering whether there is a buy-back clause on Martinez.

I understand that Chambers provides ariel strength against a team that cross the ball but his passing today was sideways and backwards. And he and Holding left their men free. And for that all important first goal – as he did with Sterling against Manchester City – he lost his man and got beaten in the air by someone ½ his size. After all the hard work defending that had proceeded, it was such a lame way to concede.

But the writing was on the wall. We ceded so much space and territory to them. We were playing like Bolton or Burnley. Except that both these teams would have had more fight, grit and determination.

Ironically when Ceballos finally got replaced it was still 0-0. He was by far our worst player today but it’s only when he left the field that we lost the game. Ceballos has no future with Arsenal. He takes so many touches when he could just lay the ball off. He losses the ball in dangerous positions on the pitch and he can’t defend. I am so desperate to see him join Mustafi, Kolinsac and the others. We’ve had him now for nearly two years and, with time, just like a wine that is not fine, he has not aged and improved. He’s going backwards. Hopefully all the way to Madrid.

So how do all those fans who’ve tried to chase Xhaka out of this club feel now? He was so clearly missing today. His ability to pick the ball off the backline and create was what we so desperately missed. And his ability to fill in behind Tierney was also missing. This is why Gabriel got into so much trouble today. There was no-one near him to receive the ball.

Partey looked dead on his feet today. When is he ever going to be ready to play a full 90 minutes? Once we’d lost this game (at 2-0) he should have been protected and removed. I’m convinced he is still not fully fit. Our season is all about the NoHopaCup. Protect him for that please.

Pepe was ineffectual and lost the ball at key times. He is so lacking in physical strength. You could blow and he’d fall over. He is too easy to push off the ball and is a risk we can’t carry. Here was another chance for him to excel but he failed. He offered no outlet today. It’s inconceivable we paid so much money for him. At some point, even though he’s young, we have to off-load him. I don’t believe he’s ever going to work out for us.

Losing three points is frustrating but not surprising. But losing Tierney is far more worrying. We can’t progress without him. Sure Cedric was reasonable but it’s not the same. We need Tesco-boy. And losing him today would be way more impactful than losing three points. We’ve seen every team have bad games and lose games they should not (cough cough Chelski) but it was the timid way in which we played today that is so worrying. Aubameyang was not involved at all. Cigarette could not hold onto the ball or pass to our players. And poor old (or young) Odergaard must have wondered why he’d want to be part of this team. We could not get him the ball. And when we did all he could do was pass sideways or backwards. There was no-one making any good runs. It was all so static.

As good as Partey can be though it demonstrates the value of Xhaka. Not only is the replacement (Ceballos or Elneny) too below the required level. But, just as Partey makes other better players so does Xhaka. He’s not perfect by any stretch – he’s too slow and too one footed. But he’s the 2nd best midfield player. And we clearly need a couple more.

Hector must be wondering why he’s in the dog house. He’s behind Chambers now and possibly Cedric. It’s not clear why. I’m not entirely happy with Hector but he offers us something we otherwise don’t have.

It also shows us what happens when you remove both Saka and Smith-Rowe from the team. These were the two catalysts for all the good things that happened from the Chelksi game onwards. And today you could see we missed their energy, drive and aggressive. Their willingness to take the game to the opposition. Their quick interplay and one touch passing is in stark contrast to the belabored rubbish we saw today. Again, with them Odergaard is wasted and unnecessary.

Games like this do make you wonder about Arteta. He was not responsible for any of the goals. But he was slow to change up our shape. I suppose we have to remember he is learning on the job and he’ll make mistakes. At least he pulled Ceballos quickly. But the shape and tactics – as excellent as they were last year against Liverpool – were absent today.

So it’s onto Thursday. We need Tierney back along with Saka and Smith Rowe. And, even, the much criticized David Luiz. This team is three players away from being competitive on a regular basis. It’s can’t happen when we so vulnerable to particular players being unavailable. We have wasted too much money over the last few years on Pepe and others to be able to recover in a year. It’s a long shot that we’ll find any way into Europe next year. Like other clubs we could use the absence to complete the rebuild. Or it could be an other step towards oblivion. Days like this one give me pause but I’m still optimistic as long as we can remain patient.

– LB7

April 1st – Thoughts on FIFA

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While we potter about during the enforced useless international break and just before players are sent back with multi-variants of the COVID virus to infect their teammates, I thought now might be a good time to review some proposals emanating from FIFA.

Regular readers – or irregular readers – or readers who are irregular – and anyone who can read, will know the high esteem in which I hold FIFA. It’s up there with the United Nations, UNICEF as a force for good in this world.

From what I’ve been able to assess there are some of the more interesting ideas being generated. And, this time, we have our ex glorious leader – The Right Honourable, Sir AW – for helping along this process. He was always quite the Renaissance man; intellectual, cerebral, multi-lingual and philosophical. The Harry Redknapp anthesis.

So let’s review, in no particular order, some of the best ideas coming out of FIFA:

  • Introduction of a square ball. With the increase in skills of all players of all age groups, this proposal would challenge players and force adaption.
  • Give points for away goals scored. To encourage more attacking play a team could lose, away from home 4-3 and still gain three points.
  • League table tie-breaks to be resolved by alphabetical ordering of the team rather than goal difference.
  • In order to create equal opportunities for left-footed players, require each team to have an equal balance of right footed players and left footed ones with the 11th played being ambidextrous.
  • Increase the goal size. This would enable certain teams – Sheffield United, Sp*rs to improve their fans experience
  • Increase the length of games to 120 minutes and increase the number of substitutes. This would allow teams/clubs to add more players to their roster and the players union also would like this idea
  • Split the game into quarters not halfs. This would allow for more advertising revenue and therefore reflate the economics of the game
  • Allow VAR to be reviewed next day so that referee mistakes can be adjusted 24 hours after the game. This would allow for goals to be nullified and scores to changes after the completion of the game (with adjustments for day light savings time)

These ideas would certainly impact the existing establishment and challenge the staid, conservative football authorities. Let’s see how they digest these. And remember also to enjoy the beginning of a new month. If memory serves me correctly it should be April 1st today.


March 21st – West Ham 3 Arsenal 3

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Last week we beat those tossers and saw them Spexit and today, in homage to their incompetence, we decided to play like them for the first 35 minutes. We even managed to honour their 3-0 score-line. But eventually, instead of imagining we were playing in white shirts we revert to playing like we were actually wearing the red shirts of Arsenal.

But how painful was that? As has been re-iterated in numerous post, I’m fully invested in Arteta; he is our long term solution. He is a tactician and a student of the game. He manages his squad and, in most cases, makes the right selections. He is obviously learning on the job and will make mistakes. Everyone does – Look at the great AW and Cygan or even Almunia.

Today though he got it wrong from the start. Mari was the wrong choice. Gabriel has been out standout defender. Mari is too slow on the ball and does not take up good positions. He also gives the ball away. And he’ll lose challenges that Gabriel wins. Then MA put Aubameyang on the right. That then exposed the surprising addition of Chambers. Though he re-deemed himself in the second half, in the first they treated him like Doherty and beat him for pace on a number of times. But he was not helped by Aubamyang who never closed down his player and barely defended. In fact, overall, today was another poor performance from our captain. He barely touched the ball and the only surprise was that it took so long to drag him off.

Leno had a shocker today. The first goal was tough but I thought he could have done better; the shot was close to him and he could have gotten off the ground quick but, as I said, it was a good strike. Whereas the second goal was something we all would have expected him to prevent; he can’t be beaten at the near post like that. For the third goal, the entire build up was lazy Arsenal from a crappy kickout from Leno to a poor header from Tierney. And then Mari keeping their attacker onside when he touched the ball in the net.

Even in the second half Leno mishandled a few times and also failed to come out to close down their attacker (sorry, but all these “attacker” are pretty nameless to me) just before Antonio hit the post. Today was the first day when I realized we made the wrong decision in letting Martinez leave. I know there are no do-overs, and that at the time it seemed like the more secure decision – keeping an established Premier League goalie – but today if you offered me the same deal I’d ship out the last remaining Kraut on our team. It feels like Leno is making more mistakes than he did last year. Whether it’s his poor decision making on distribution or saves he should be making.

But beyond these three or four the entire team was malignant. There was zero on the field leadership. They were deer in headlights. They were the Spuds. No clue and over-run. I had half hoped Arteta would make a substitution after 30 minutes. We were overrun and had no idea how, on the field, to solve for it. Finally he switched Saka and Aubameyang and that helped  Chambers. But with Cigarette dropping so deep to get the ball and essentially occupying the same space as Odergaard, we had no control of the game.

I can’t remember seeing us so disengaged and disorganization. It was wave after wave of attack. We looked like we were facing a leading Croatian team. How can everyone switch off for their second goal? Tierney turns his back. As does Xhaka, Partey and Odergaard and David Luiz. Only the hapless Mari took note. Week after week we witness these mental mistakes. And at some point Arteta has to own this problem. From Sterling at Man City in the first few minutes to Aston Villa through to Burnley and Olympiacos – and we could not blame Ceballos today. It’s stunningly depressing.

Prior to that third goal we had started to gradually wake up but that third goal should have put the nail in the coffin. Instead, we somehow found our shape. And most of that was due to Odergaard creating and moving the ball. In combination with Saka they started to open up WHU. And then Chambers put in the type of cross that Bellerin dreams of for Cigarette to score. Don’t tell me that was an OG; he was bending the ball back in and was a terrific goal. That changed the game. Though right afterwards his through ball to Saka should have had us only one goal behind at half-time. He’s young and a super-star and in years to come he’ll slot those chances away. It would also have been an injustice to only be behind by 1 goal given how abject we had been. BTW, where was Bellerin; he did not even make the bench. Back to MO. I think we’ve seen enough now to know that we have to sign him permanently. Let’s hope he is willing to be part of such an inconsistent team. Would you want to join the enigma that is known as Arsenal?

The second half was an entirely different proposition. WHU seemed to adopt the white shirts; they withdrew and tried to play defense. Whether they ceded the space because of their defensive confidence or whether we just overwhelmed them is debatable. We moved the ball directly and quickly. We avoided letting Mari touch the ball; he makes David Luiz seem like he passes the ball quickly.   We played through their lines and allowed Cigarette to create and move.

The one player who actually contributed in both halves but who excelled in the second half was Odergaard. He was outstanding. Clearly his best game for us. He took the game by the scruff of the neck. He was inventive and dynamic. He demanded the ball and created so many openings. He opened up their backline, retain possession and orchestrated all our moves. That was as good a demonstration of someone running the game from the #10 position as anyone I’ve seen in the last 10 years. Before our second goal Cigarette was unlucky not to score when they cleared off the line. Again, where was Aubameyang? I can’t remember him doing anything today. He’ll come back to us at some point I’m sure. He’s too much of a natural goalscorer.  

Chambers, after setting up the first, continued to excel down the right delivering more crosses and causing our second goal. Yet another own-goal. With Aubameyang lurking behind him, he might have been better off leaving it so we’d miss yet another chance.

Then more aggressive changes by Arteta – with the removal of our captain – to be instantly rewarded with a Pepe cross to Cigarette to claim the equalizer.  At that point with Pepe and Martinelli and ESR on the pitch I thought we might be able to grab the winner. There were chances flying around their box but with just Partey trying to play defensive midfield it was a likely they grab one on the break. Partey was dead on his feet in the last 10 minutes. I’m sure if he was playing for Ghana in the next two weeks he would have been pulled off. Overall, his performance was pretty good but still he insists on shooting from distance. I’ve yet to even see anything close to being on target let alone requiring a save. Someone has to tell him to pass the ball to someone else at this stage.

Even with this remarkable recovery it’s hard to feel too good about the result. That first 35 minutes was so shambolic. I could never have imagined we’d leave with a point at that point. And though we should be appreciative of the resilience and belief in the team there is a mental toughness once we go behind. But there is this fragility or nonchalance at the start of the game. It is our achilleas heel. Or our Mari foot. Or our Leno pass.

As we enter this stupid, unnecessary and COVID filled international break we have a lot to be grateful for. The first 1/3rd of the season was worrying whereas the last 1/3rd has seen genuine progress. We’ve pulled away from the bottom of the table, we’ve qualified for the ¼ finals of the NoHoppa Cup and we’re edging up the table. But most importantly Arteta has started to develop and grow this team. We have identified pivotal players that will be a part of our long-term future – Saka, ESR, Partey, Gabriel, Tierney, Odergaard. Once we’re able to add a couple of players of the quality of Partey and MO we can really start to contend. We knew this was a journey but know we at least can see the direction – and it’s forward. And it’s nice to see us waving goodbye to the tossers as they continue down their inevitable path to self-destruction and all things naturally evil when you have Darth Vader in the house. Let’s hope they do just enough for them not to fire him. The longer he stays there the better and the more likely Kane moves on.

Gdansk is our only real hope this year otherwise it’s Brexit for us. But we have a few matches to win first. It’s with little confidence that anyone would predict which one of our schizophrenic teams will turn up. We are clearly in need of a therapist. Somehow, we need to develop a backbone. Some ability to focus through the 90 minutes. It’s been an illness within the club prior to Arteta. Maybe it’s a leftover disease from the sense of entitlement that crept into the AW teams at the end of that era.

Now we have two weeks to get Saka back to fitness and to teach Partey how to pass and not shoot. And maybe Aubemeyang can rediscover his scoring boots. I’m not prepared to invest in flights to Gdansk quite yet. There’s plenty of work to be done first. But if we can play like we did in the second half for the last 1/3rd of the season we’ll at least be in the frame. Whereas, if we replicate our first 35 minutes we’ll be destined to fail like a team that played in Croatia.

  • LB7

March 14th – Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 1

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Not dead yet. Neither me nor Arsenal. It’s a pleasure to be back after mauling that lot. Though we made heavy weather of that in the last 10 minutes that was an impressive performance. A fully deserved 3 points and justice was served. Both in terms of the result and in terms of injuries to Son and a red card for that irritating, sharp-elbowed, nasty little Argentinian.

As soon as he came on to replace the hamstrung Son, he started his normal spiky behavior – nibbling at Xhaka, instigating and generally acting like the penis that he is. Annoyingly he then scored a goal that the world is purring over. In addition to them scoring completely against the balance of play – well, in truth, I’m not sure you could say they played at all in the first half – we had to sit through endless replays and fawning over the brilliance of this sad little penis. I’d prefer though to focus on the replays of both his first foul on Xhaka and then the perfect picture of both his elbow into poor Tesco Tierney (TT) with little Darth Vader in the background waving one of his tentacles in the air. Someone needs to get a frame of that and sell it on Ebay (Is Ebay still a thing?). And then that pleasurable walk of shame off the pitch. Justice served. Thank you. It does not make up for David Luiz being sent off nor the endless decisions we don’t get (i.e. hand balls by Burnley last week) but it was more than well deserved. And, annoyingly, after he finally left the pitch, the rest of his team decided to start actually putting us under pressure.

We dominated the game and imposed ourselves on them from the beginning. But as soon as we took the lead and then they lost that list sad penis, we mentally imploded. That same self-destruct button we have consistently seen re-appeared. It was not enough to gift the Burnley knobs a goal nor the Greeks during the week. No, here from the minute we took the lead Gabriel – who was otherwise perfect today – passes the ball out behind TT. Then right after that TT manages to stub his toe making a pass right to their player. Partey, who was maybe tiring, starts passing to them. Mistakes start creeping into our game. The only two who didn’t were David Luiz and Xhaka. It’s obviously a team allocation thing. They had used up their weekly allocation of fucked-up passes. It was now everyone else’s turn.

Those last 10 minutes were beyond nerve racking. As content and happy as I was during the first 80 minutes (well, maybe not exactly calm) in those last 10 minutes I was utterly apoplectic with anger at our mental fragility. These constant stupid mistakes. We had the game in our finger tips and yet we seemed determined to throw it away. It’s as though this team is scared of winning. We are unable to believe we can and should win. Going behind is something we can react and recover from but taking the lead seems like a foreign concept. After the game both Cigarette and Arteta discussed their poor game management at the end of the game. It was our worst 10 minutes of the game. It was so clear though that they were able to acknowledge that right after the game. So maybe there is some hope.

This self-destruct capability is the trip wire though that will inevitably cause us to miss our targets for this year. Until we can delver into the psyche of our team and instill some backbone we won’t be able to progress in the way we anticipate. Imagine if there had been a full stadium of fans? Imagine how that angst would have transferred to the players and increases the stress on their mentality. We’re lucky to play these. Games without fans. In fact, I suspect the absence of fans allowed Arteta to retain his role through the painful losing streak in November. It gave him the time he needed to find the right formula. With fans screaming for results during that period I wonder if he would have survived to take us to the promised land.

So, back to the game itself. The lack of Aubameyang was unexpected. It tells us something about the self-confidence and belief Arteta has that he would confidently take this stand. Against our hated rivals dropping his talisman. What other manager would have done this? A loss today would have ended any slight chance to getting into Europe post Brexit. And to lose to Darth Vader would be unthinkable. Yet, he clearly believes he has the full support and backing off the entire AFC hierarchy such that he could put those pressures to one side to focus on the greater good of the team rules and togetherness. To let everyone know that all the rules apply to all the players finally puts to bed all those prior exceptions made from players like Ozil. It would be unimaginable for AW to have done this. And as for that dull accountant, he was too scared of his own shadow to contemplate such a move.

And where was Hector? That was not expected either. And what a good game our little Portuguese pigmy had today. Contrast that with their right back. Cedric was creative and dangerous. He has a solid football IQ and helped us dominate that lot. On the left Smith-Rowe was quite stunning. He ripped them apart consistently. Among all the great displays today his might be the most impressive. He darted around the filed making intelligent one touch passes. In-between he unleashed an Odergaard type shot that hits the cross bar. Along with TT they tore apart Bale and Doherty. Did they really pay £15 m to Wolves for that guy? I can’t believe they did not remove him at half-time. He was totally out of his depth. But then that’s true of most of their players. Today ESR showed us yet more improvement in his game. He contributed in more varied ways and kept the pace of our movement high. His passing under pressure is something to behold. Maybe this is was the original MO was like when he was younger.

Then there’s the new MO. After that stunning mid-week goal he snagged another one care of a nasty deflection. Maybe our luck is finally turning. That shot was never going to beat Lloris without the deflection. But rarely will you see a more deserved goal than that. We dominated them in every stage of the game. I can’t remember a single save Leno had to make – our post was more active than Leno.

Xhaka and Partey controlled the midfield. For once Xhaka was more dominant than Partey. Aside from that mental problem in the last 10 minutes he still has this unwarranted belief that he can shot a ball and hit the target. I’ve yet to see any evidence of this. Likewise there are times when – as in the second half – he tried to beat three players right by the half way line. It was not enough that he beat two of them. Rather than pas she wanted to take on the entire team. Hopefully someone is going to knock that tendency out of him soon. Meantime, Xhaka controlled the game and I can’t think of a single misplaced pass.

Cigarette was mildly effective. He provides shape and focus to our play. But I can’t understand how a striker decides to dummy the ball in the six yard areas when faced with a chance to shoot. He also missed a shot when we again penetrated down our left. He did win us a penalty after whiffing on the ball. And did pick himself up and put the ball in the net. But he was not overly committed to closing them down and chasing after the ball. Even at the end MO was still running around whereas Cigarette was hovering around the ½ way line. Maybe though this game suited him better than Aubameyang.

Saka was quiet again by his high standards. I worry that he went off at ½ time. But at least we saw Pepe and not William. Pepe was pretty good but was helped by having Cedric behind him. It’s hard to think of a player who underperformed today. We even saw Leno launch the ball up field multiple times today; it seemed like we did not force ourselves to play it out the back every time. Which is kinda ironic given that Sp*rs refused to apply any pressure when we did. Have they not seen what we’ve done lately? How could they not apply any pressure? But then I was baffled by their lack of tactics the entire game. Why play Bale and then not get him the ball? Why play so defensively? I know they are a counter-attacking team but right from the start they were completely passive. They played more like Bolton or Burnley than a time aspiring to qualify for Europe. It made no sense. It was only in the last 10 minutes – down by one goal and down by one sad penis – did they apply pressure. Imagine what they could have done if they actually played like that for the entire game. And that surely lands at the feet of Darth Vader. It feels like he remains stuck in the first decade of this century. That’s fine with me. But what a waste of money. I’m sure they will grind out a few more 1-0 victories. But without Son they will suffer. And how I’ll enjoy that. They truly got what they deserved today. At least when we lose we do it in style. We can be assured to conjure up yet more preposterous ways to give up goals and points. We lose with class; they lose through pure boredom.

So, stressful and nerve-racking as it was, this was 3 well earned points. The better team won. The better youngsters with with us. The future remains bright. Not bright enough to help us this yer but surely for the next few years. We have an upward trajectory. And we’ll be passing that lot in our ascent. We have the right manager and a core group of young players that can act as our spine. And they have the right manager. One destined to take them on a deep dark journey to hell. Where they have a special spot reserved for them.

Man, it’s good to be back


February 6 – Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 0

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Long-term. Perspective. Breath. Calm down now. Two losses in a row. But I’d prefer to pick out the aspects that I like. In fact, that includes that previous defeat as well. In both cases we demonstrated we know how to play. This little period is unlike the prior losing streak. Even though this could continue. We seem to run out of luck. And we have Willian.

So many parts today (and against Wolves) were good. The quality of our football was there to see. Sure, because of their lead, Villa sat back and tried to hit us on the rebound. I can’t blame them for that. And Grealish is a player. Unfortunately.

But that opening goal was abysmal. We finally got rid of Kolinsac. And Mustafi. And then Cedric makes the type of pass that Kolinsac that made to David Luis against Sp*rs last year. Then they had the luck to get a nasty deflection of Handsome Holding. And poor old Ryan has to pick the ball out of the next before he’s even touched the ball. This was all Cedric. Oh where are you Tierney. I fear he’s in the same place that we’ll now find Partey.

Xhaka is a different player with Partey there. But I fear we’ll lose Partey again for another month. What is up with his hamstrings? When he was at Athletico, I believe, he did not have any injuries. The good news is that he fits out team perfectly. He makes us so much better. And, just maybe, Edu can find another player like this – but just less injury prone.

And the new MO. He looks like a player. In fact, he looks a little Ozil like with his incisive passing. Two great additions to this team. Of course, that’s offset by the addition of Willian. As much as I’ve tried to defend him and counselled patience, he really is a disaster. He has no confidence and limited ability. When he receives the ball he invariably goes backwards or sideways.

Saka, yet again, was fantastic. But, where is the outcry about the number of times he’s targets for systematic fouling. Any English player with this ability would normally cause the media to argue that this type of talent should be protected. He was continually fouled today. One day he will pick up an injury that will keep him out for months. So, where is this outcry? I can’t hear it. Could it possible be because though he’s English he’s not, you know, how do I say this. Oh, I know. He’s BLACK. Is it possible that there’s just a little piece of racism here. He’s not a great white hope for England so no-one cares about the systematic fouling he’s subject to? Anyway, this boy is such a pleasure to watch. He grows from game to game. Soon, surely, he will be playing for England. And, maybe then, referees will provide him with the protection he deserves.

And what about Pepe? Well, I was wrong. He is better than Willian. Even adjusted for his transfer fee. After his brilliant goal against Wolves, he became more of a threat today as the game progressed. Like most of the team, he was quiet in the first half but genuinely threatening in the second half. It’s a shame that we lost Partey. Because when Saka and Pepe where on the same side of the pitch Villa were torn apart. We had a few chances but nothing that clearcut. They also had chances but Ryan is no Runnyson and was able to deflect their attempts. And then we saw Aubameyang come on. But he was anonymous. With Pepe and Saka I’m not even sure where he fits. But with ESR and MO we have genuine creativity. Even if we also have poor old Hector unable to make simple passes.

Xhaka moved the ball well. He and Partey bottled up their midfield. Partey is so smooth on the ball and quick to distribute. I fear how this midfield will look without him. He provides Xhaka with the time to wander around our backline and protect them when they move forward. But we have no equivalent replacement.

A long time ago I gave up on this year. Liverpool missed out on Europe early on in the Klopp era. As did Chelski during one of their many changes in manager. We are not good enough to get into the Champions League. I don’t even see how we’ll make the top 6. But I’m resigned to that. This, and next year, are there for Arteta to re-build this team. And we can see how that it progressing. That first 45 minutes against Wolves was domineering. And towards the end of todays game you could also see the shape and style of our future team. We have managed to dispose of so many of our unappealing acquisitions and poor investments – Mustafi, Ozil and Kolinsac. And we don’t have to worry about Willock. Phew. But I’d like to have kept AMN. Without Partey we could have used him. Elneny, poor thing, is not up to the job. And Ceballos has gone all injured.

Missing out on Europe next year will give these key players more time to rest between games. It will hit our finances. But, they are already requiring the deep pockets of the Kroenkes’. So they’ll have no choice but to pony up more money. That’s the problem when you’re the sole owner. But we have the right manager. And he’s making the right progress. There will inevitably be bad games, and bad results. That’s only to be expected. And this year, of all years, have shown us the vagaries of the results. Look at a real team – like Liverpool – and how their performances oscillate from one game to the next. They lost 7-2 to Villa. They destroyed Sp*rs and then lose at home to Burnley and Brighton. How very Arsenal of them. And ManU. There are so many examples. It’s because the fixtures give little or not time to allow for recovery. And if your team is highly dependent on one or two players or does not have the depth of coverage then you’re going to be exposed in such a tight fixture schedule as this. And we have both of those situations.

So I’m able to rationalize defeats like today by looking to the future. We have the right manager. And we have some genuine talent in this team. We can build around Saka, ESR, Partey, , Leno, Tierney, Holding and, yes, Pepe. That’s nearly an entire team of real ability. This last transfer window showed that the club (i.e. Edu and Arteta) know what’s wrong with this squad and know what players have to be moved on. And, with Partey and the new MO, they also have an eye for the players we do need.

So, sure, we lost. And I worry about losing Partey to yet another injury. And I hate losing three points. But we are going in the right direction. And I have faith. And I look at those muppets that lost to Liverpool and then Brighton. Now that is a team in trouble. And that’s what happens when you put your faith in Darth Vader.

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