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.

-LB7

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.

-LB7

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

-LB7

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.

  • LB7

January 26th – Southampton 1 Arsenal 3

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Now that’s a result. Fuck the F. A. Cup. Give me three points any day.

It’s amazing what a few – important changes – can do for this team. It’s the removal of WEEP (Willian, Eddie, Elneny and Pepe). We’ll not quite, more WEE. Consigned to the bench were Willian, Eddie and Elneny. Phew. I was not too happy to see the last member – Pepe – in the team. I was hoping for Martinez.

We started so brightly. Aggressive, fast movement, quick passing. So different from Saturday. And then our pressing of them (in contrast to them pressing us on Saturday) lead to a perfect through ball from Xhaka to Cigarette. Instead of giving us an immediate 1-0 lead, he extinguished our hopes. And then, naturally, P of WEEP, went to sleep for a corner and instead of leading 1-0 we’re 1-0 down.

I’m immediately into trashing P; can’t even bare to say his name. And then, he wakes up and care of Xhaka again (I think) gets us level. Finally Pepe comes alive. Phew. We needed that. Overall this was not his worse performance. And maybe I have to finally concede that Willian is the worse of the two.

Anyway, enough negativity. This was a game to enjoy. There were so many good performances. Let’s start with our Portuguese pigmy – Cedric. Poor boy has to fill in for Tesco Tierney. But unlike in the F A Cup, he was more dynamic and help create down our left. Ultimately, he capped it with a cross field ball to Saka to set up the final goal.

In-between, the wonderful Saka took advantage of yet more pressing to receive the ball from Cigarette run round their tree shaped GK. How impressive was Saka today? This boy shows not limits to what he can do. They hacked at him all game but could not stop him.

Smith Rowe darted around, full of energy and chasing. His passing and link up play speed up this team and help open up the opposition. It was not his best game but he and Saka change this team – for the better.

Cigarette redeemed himself with that pass to Saka and then capped it of with his goal. He was so sheepish after that miss. He knows he needed to put that one away. It really could have been costly for us. If we had lost he would have shouldered the blame. Thankfully, we dominated Southampton and thoroughly deserved this win. So aside from that miss, he worked so hard, constant running and excellent link up play. Everything that Eddie can’t give us.

Xhaka was excellent today. Great passing, great position. And worked really well with Partey. In fact Xhaka gave the ball away less often than Partey. Partey was caught on the ball in dangerous positions a couple of times. He’ll learn. I remember Viera committing the same mistakes. But what a difference the midfield is with Partey. He is strong, dominant and intelligent in his play. And unlike Elneny, he passes the ball forward – quickly.

Aside from Cedric, Bellerin was very solid and Holding was excellent. David Luis was reverted to his kamikaze style at the end – trying to gift them a goal. Luckily we had Holding to clean up. Holding really is holding up our defense. Holding is robing attackers of the ball. And behind them we had Leno to clean up and save us at crucial times.

OK, we were not perfect today. But we were more like we were against West Brom than Palace. And less like we were against Southampton twice before. At our place and on Saturday. Why. Because most of WEEP were on the bench.

A word for the referee. C*nt. What a shit dick this c*unt was. How did he book Xhaka and then let their center halfs butcher Cigarette? Not that I mind them kicking Willian when he finally. Made his appearance. But how was that not a yellow. He have a yellow to Bellerin for breathing on them. But they kicked Elneny right in front of him. And, how was that not a penalty on Cigarette? Anyway, Kevin Friend. You are a right royal prat. And you are surely one of the ugliest refs in the league (and there is mighty stuff competition). Let’s hope we don’t see him again.

OK, that’s it. Short but sweet. As the actress said to the bishop. And a minutes silence for poor Frank. Barely 17 months and he’s shown the door. He must have wished he was managing over here. The poor guy had no transfer window last year and got them into the Champions League. Someone signed a bunch of duds and he gets sacked.

So, great result, great game. And we have some mighty fine players. And a bunch of tossers on our bench. Long may WEE stay there.

-LB7

January 23rd – Southampton 1 Arsenal 0

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F. A. Cup. Who needs it. We’ve won it enough. Let’s give someone else a chance I say. We’re so nonchalant about it we’ll even score for the opposition. That’s how unimportant it is to us. And it’s not like we’ll be able to attend the final in person anyway.

Oh, hold on, It’s the one thing we’ve won recently. Bugger.

But if every F A Cup game is like this then I’m glad we lost. It’ was boring, tepid, dreary and depressing. It was like watching the worst parts of the Emery era combined with the dark period in Arteta’s reign.

It demonstrated again how close we were to relegation. A team with the four losers used to be our normal state. And that state was losing. And today we reverted to that. Willian, Eddie , Elneny and Pepe. WEEP. And, boy, did we weep. I was in tears. It was agony.

Most of the game was spent who was worse Willian or Pepe. My view has been Pepe because of the extreme money we spent to acquire a player who should be playing in Spain. A player who once every 5 games (or maybe it’s 10) will do something astonishingly good. But beyond that, he’s so easy to push off the ball. He’s so weak in his movement. There was one point where Bellerin passed the ball right through to him on the right. He was one on won and tried to cut back in and slipped over. I remember seeing highlights of his time in France when he looked to electric. Here he looks outclassed; out of his depth.

Willian is embarrassing. His movements are minimal. Minimal energy. Passing is off target and contributes basically nothing. We acquired this one for nothing but have to pay upwards of £200,000 per week. But, hopefully, we can off-load him to someone in Russia, Turkey or China. But we’re stuck with him for 2 ½ years more. I know we filtered around in different positions but, really, he looks disinterested and clueless. People used to criticize Ozil for his poor body language; Willian is lucky there are no fans around to abuse him (Willian not Ozil).

So which one is worse? I still think Pepe is. But only just. But when you combine these two with the members of the WEEP team, you end up with the slow, sideways, clueless performance we saw today. Thankfully WEEP do not play every game. Hopefully WEEP never play for us again. But imagine where we’d be without Smith Rowe and Saka.

Personally, I would have left them in for the entire game. I would not have risk Partey or Saka for this game. Today proved why we need to manage their time carefully. Even in their short period on the pitch they impacted the game and created a few chances. Unfortunately, two fell to Eddie. Oh poor Eddie. He’s not cut out for this. At some point we’ll sell him to a Championship team. Until then he’ll remain an unused substitute or will come on in the 85th minute.

And then there’s Elneny. If Partey makes everyone around him better – which he does – then Elneny is the anti-Partey. He will bring everyone down to his level. In the early stages of the NoHopeCup, against truly awful teams (sorry Ireland) he can give the impression of being a creative player. But against real opposition all he can do is pass sideways and backwards. And today he handed them their first and only goal. How we could try and play out from deep in our right hand corner with the players we had on the pitch is beyond me – and that’ on Arteta not the donkey that is Elneny. And once he’d given the ball away you can see Bellerin arguing with him. And then he proceeded to lose his man just at Gabriel decided to help them out.

Southampton had more energy, running, closing down and aggression than us. They also fouled more continuously. The referee today was a complete tosser. He barely called any of their fouls. They understand how to break up play. And when they had the ball they moved it forward much quicker. It was only when Partey joined the midfield did we win tackles and also move the ball forward quickly. Only then did we look even slightly dangerous.

Tuesday will be different. WEEP won’t be playing. But it will still be difficult. Hasselhoff has that team well drilled. Physical and speedy. He is like a mini-Klopp. A charmless Klopp. What’s less charming than a German – an Austrian.

I felt slightly sorry today for two people (aside from myself). Holding should not have had to play. We should be saving his legs for more important games. I thought he was fine again today but exposed by the lack of availability of players to pass to in midfield.

The other one? AMN. How much he feel not being able to get any playing time after his sterling efforts at the end of last season. He’s barely played now. He has to see Willian and Pepe get playing time ahead of him. And Cedric played left back today. He was crap. He can’t cross the ball and therefore adds no threat down the left. It’s not his fault. Put him on the right – as we ended up doing – and you can see the improvement (even if he did overhit every cross today). So what’s AMN supposed to do? I think he’ll have to hand in a transfer request at some point. He’s wasting his time. Until we solve WEEP he will be blocked. This was where SR could have been.

This team has made great progress over the last month. But today just demonstrated what we knew. That the squad is poorly balanced. There are still too many duds that cost too much money. Unfortunately we can only blame the current regime for Willian. And that is worrying. Pepe we can blame on others. And maybe we can sell him in the summer for £20m. Maybe then AMN could see some playing time. But, if I was him, I’d want to move on and play. And currently there are too many duds ahead of him. How could he not play today? I don’t understand that. When was the last time he actually played?

So we again saw how dependent we are on our starting 11. An injury to Tierney or Saka or Partey would decimate this team. At least we now have a backup GK. Even if he is Australian. And maybe Arteta can look at himself and realize he got it wrong today. He should have changed it up quicker. He should have pulled WEEP off. Or maybe he knew he had to give them time and the game was lost. But there’s no way WEEP can be let loose for a PL game. Then we would be back to square one.

And let’s see what we learn for Tuesday’s game. Will we expect their high press? Will we vary our approach or will we allow them to pressure us to give the ball away cheaply. Hopefully we’ll have improved creativity and movement. But we also need to be prepared for a more physical encounter. And at least we won’t have to wake up early to suffer as we did this morning.

  • LB7

January 18th – Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0

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Let the Partey begin. Did you miss me while I was away? Did you hang my picture on the wall. Finally, I decided to exercise my fingers and share in my wisdom and intellect. OK, now we’re done with that. Let’s review my “quiet period”. Not on a personal level (but while you’re asking, thank you, the sex change went fine that you very much.).

From the trauma of Burnley and Everton through the rebirth versus Chelski onto the excellence at West Brom, this team has been through quite a few transitions. And our manager has had to withstand an onslaught of ill-informed criticism.  Within a few losses the morons were out claiming he was not up to the task. I’m sure these are the same retards that chased AW out of our club. Thankfully we’ve been able to stabilize the club and start to look like a football team again.

It took less time to crack their defense than it did in the F A Cup. All we had to do was discover the real Aubameyang. After missing what was essentially an open goal in the first half he was able to recover his touch to score the all in important first goal. This time he genuinely attacked the statuesque defender. Whereas in the first half he dithered on the ball and generally was too slow of thinking in his decision, this time, once Partey feed him the ball, he turned all Henry-esque for us. And once that went in you knew Newcastle would have little to respond with. Their best player – as in the cup match – was Carroll; both as an attacked and defender.

How stupid were they though? Two corners to tee up for Carrol and neither could get past our first man. And when they had free kicks, instead of throwing it up there for might Carroll they played everything short. Haven’t they see what this guy has down to us in the past in the air? They must have been watching some excellent porn programs instead.

How good was Partey today? He made Xhaka look like a star. Parteys’ calmness and position brought out the best from Xhaka. With time – and fitness – this man (Partey obviously) will become the central engine on this team. His first touch (as witnessed in the lead up to the first goal) is soft and simple. He has vision and turns up field given the chance. And he can defend. Imagine that. He sits deep allowing Xhaka to wander off to the left. And he brings balance to the team.

Ahead of him we have the pubescent Smith Rowe. When this boy hits puberty he will be some player. He runs and works in ways our soon to depart Ozil never has. His vision and touch is delicate. And he sees the game in front of him. He set up that second goal – even if Aubameyang delayed getting him the ball – by challenging the defender. He links up so well with Saka. He intelligently moves into space and has a fine, delicate touch pass.

Saka is just a beast. Not at his best today. But, arguably, he is the one responsible for the reprise of Arsenal and the saving of Arteta. Over the last few months he has become the talisman for this team. Not Aubameyang. Not Cigarette.

Todays second half performance was driven by Saka and Smith-Rowe with some help from Partey. Cigarette has rediscovered his game. His touch to Partey initiated that move. His overall touch has returned. He was unlucky not to score at the start of the second half. But he is so much better in the center than Aubameyang. Again, the pubescent, retarded Arsenal fans who claimed he should be played through the middle are morons. He should be on the wing because he can’t link up play like Cigarette. Of course, he knows how to score. Though after that missed open goal in the first half I began to wonder.

Holding is now being paid more and not being thought of as excess to requirements. He’s seen of Kolinsac (phew). That pass to Luiz for the Sp*rs goal last year still gives me nightmares. Holding is now the first defender on the team sheet. I truly hope he can avoid injuries for a while. He is relatively young and still developing. He’s not the quickest but he’s road-tested, physical and smart. You have to be to play alongside David Luiz. The man who can slow any passing move down to a crawl. OK, he’s not made the kind of moronic mistakes he made last year and generally we’ve been solid when he plays. I don’t mind the money we’ve paid him. And I’d like him to stick around for another year. But Mari and Gabriel – when both return to fitness – should be playing alongside Holding.

And then off to the left is Tesco Tierney. A real left-back. Not since Cole, Winterburn and Sansom have we seen a left back of this quality. He energizes the entire team. And when Martinelli plays in front of him they will rip up the opposition.

So that’s an interesting backbone for a team – Leno, Holding, Tierney, Partey, Smith Rowe and Saka. Obviously because of the youth – and the lack of experience in the PL – Smith Rowe will wane and go through some combination of injuries or lose of form. Then, again, we’ll see his importance in this team. His movement and link-up play – as witnessed when he and Saka link up – is unmatched by anyone else. If he stays fit, watch how many assists he racks up. Finding a backup or alternative to SR will be vital. It might be tough to find someone to being second fiddle to a 20 year old and it seems crazy to spend in excess of £40 on a backup. But we need someone else. It’s not Willian and it’s not Ceballos. Of course with a player like Partey anchoring the team, maybe Ceballos can play further up the pitch.

I still have no illusions that this team can qualify for the Champions League. I don’t even think we’ll make the NoHopa Cup. And I doubt we can win another cup this year. But, given where we were post Burnley we can’t be too upset. As long as we see progress and development. As long as Edu finds another midfield player for Partey to fill out our depth. We can’t rely on Xhaka, Elneny and Ceballos. And please, please don’t mention Willock. We need to off-load him like we did Ob1. Except this time I’d take £4 let alone £40m.

I feel sorry for Maitland-Niles though. It seems like he does not quite fit into this team. Even today Cedric came into the right hand side with Bellerin missing. The poor guy had to fill in on the left for Tierney but then does not get the chance to play on the right hand side. I hope it’s because he’ll be playing in the F A Cup this week. And hopefully we’ll only use Partey for 60 minutes. We need him if we do want to climb the table. But at least we can stop looking down the table and worrying about our worst possible nightmare situation. And BTW., how much better was Cedric than Bellerin? I wonder why he played today and not Hector. But he was reliable and worked hard. And created that final goal. I think that was his first PL start.

Another clean sheet. That’s four in a row. Even if 2 of those were against abject Newcastle. They truly look like relegation material. I’m not sure that Leno had a single save to make today. I can remember one dive for a shot from Carrol that went wide. He deserved a nice, easy game after saving our bacon against mighty Palace.

This is one weird season. Liverpool drawing at home to West Brom (let along losing at Villa). Sp*rs drawing to Fulham. The two Manchester teams dropping points. Fatigue is clearly an issue here. If I were a betting man my money would go on Man City. There are the only team – other than Arsenal – that I enjoy watching. Liverpool seem to have lost their rhythm. The pace of their game has vaporized. Maybe injuries will ultimately determine the winner. On that basis Liverpool have got not shot. They lose players to injuries like Republicans lose elections.

And, finally, Ozil moves on. We save a little money. More importantly we don’t have to listen to those daft conversations about why we don’t play him. It was nothing to do with China. It was because he’s a player that does not fit into our style of play. Watch how hard SR worked today to come back and defend. Ozil is from a different era – one that has passed him by. Like Dele Ali, you can’t just be “creative” but you have to defend. Or, in Ozil’s case, learn how to head a ball. He was wonderful for a few years. Then Gazidis threw our check book at him because after the Sanchez fiasco we could not tolerate the embarrassment of losing yet another high profile player. Thankfully Gazidis is gone. And now Ozil heads out leaving behind some great memories of his early years. Now if you could only take Mustafi with you.

Finally, this team is taking shape. The combination of youth and experience. Sokratis will leave soon as well. Maybe Mustafi. Then we’ll only have a couple dubious players (yes, Willian, that’s you I’m referring to). But with a decent set of defenders at last it’s time to find Partey his permanent partner (and no, that’s not you Joe Willock).

So, 2021 welcome. It’s been a rocky start. Jan 6th was desperate. Today was up-lifting. And Jan 20th will, hopefully, be the dawn and rebirth of civilization.

-LB7

December 6th – Sp*rs 2 Arsenal 0

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I hate NLD. Of course, it’s dictated by my hatred for Sp*rs. How can you not hate a bunch of inflated, pumped up jonny-come-latelys. We had in excess of 2 decades of absolute domination. And yet, even then, we had to deal with their annoying pestering chatter about who and what they were. And then whenever they randomly achieve something they’d cut a DVD (that’s how long it’s been since they’ve achieved anything). And all the time, we remained gracefully and royally aloof. Neither wanting to flaunt the obvious nor descend to their level.

Now here we are, they have a better team, a better squad and they have gotten the better of us for a few years. So, knowing what’s coming down, I hate NLD. It was so much more fun when I knew we had a competitive team.

And I hate the predictable way in which our fans respond. That’s right. Not the losers from WHL. But our own fans turn on Arteta. They have such blissfully ignorant memories. Don’t talk to me about our past accountant or even try to draw comparisons. Arteta has already won more trophies than Sp*rs have in a decade.

Anyone with half a brain – which excludes the majority of our own supporters – can see that this squad is unbalanced; that the team is unbalanced. How can you not see the improvements Arteta has made. We now how a genuine left-back. And the start of a spine with Gabriel and Partey. But it needs more than one transfer window. Arteta must be given time.

We are so impatient. If we were the Israelites leaving Egypt, Arsenal supporters would barely have given Moses 40 weeks to wander in the desert let alone 40 years.

So, I always knew how painful today was going to be. Though without Kolinsac to remind me to the disaster from last year I was hoping it would not be as painful.

Mistakes cost you games. Bellerin for the first and then Xhaka for the second. But the difference is when they made equivalent mistakes we could not score. Well, we could barely get the ball on target.

We need our Aubameyang back. I’d play him in the NoHopa next game. Have him find his scoring touch. If Kane had that heading opportunity at the start of the second half he would have scored. And if that one on once chance after the through ball from Cigarette had come to him last year he’d have at least tested the goalkeeper. A couple of times in the first half he had half chance but decided not to shoot. It’s not so much he’s not getting the opportunity as he has no belief. We peppered their defense with crosses but I’d like to know how many times Aubameyang has scored with his head. Maybe we imagined we still had Giroud up front.

Overall we were better than we were against Wolves (and Aston Villa). It’s going to be tough on Arteta. The pressure will build. I did not expect us to get three points today. But our biggest loss will turn out to be Partey.I fear he’ll be sidelined for the entirety of the holiday period We won’t see him until the. Next year. That is something we can control and something someone should be held accountable for. For me, setting pride to one side, the Burnley game was more important than this. That is a game we need to win. And a game he should have been saved for.

The entire second half was like attack v defense. Except we barely had an attack. We forced one save from their goalie. Of course, I think they had two shots on goal the entire game. But, unfortunately, they were world class ones.

There was a lot to like about our game today. Holding was solid, Tierney impressive. Saka is going to be world class. Partey was dominant, smart and skillful. Unfortunately, Bellerin was caught ball watching for their first goal. And their second – clearly impacted because Partey was on the side of the pitch unable to run, was also impacted by Xhaka over-committing to our attack.

Today felt like we had our old Xhaka back. The Emery Xhaka. Awful passing, dreadful fouls, dreadful tackling. Pretty quickly I was looking for him to get sent off. Ceballos brought more energy. I’d like to have seen Elneny replace Xhaka. Even after Partey went off.

Willian was better today. He worked hard – though he could have tracked back more intelligently for their first goal as well. His corners are great and his crosses were teasing. It requires a striker to feed off of those.

Cigarette had one of his best games. Playing that withdrawn role works well for him. He, like Aubameyang, needs to shot more. But his passing was crisper and his link up play generated momentum for us.

But in tight games like these you live and die by your mistakes. And two is too many.

Now we have to channel our support through Liverpool and Man City. We have to trust that they can claw back the leadership. Because the unimaginable is too painful to contemplate. All we need is an injury to Kane. Or Son. Or, maybe for Christmas, Santa can deliver injuries to both. That would change things. Or maybe their ugly Danish tattooed midfielder can finally get a yellow card after fouling the entire game. And man, when I saw ugly I’m being generous.

A team that just wins by playing defense and then counter-attacking football should not win the league. In this shortened, crazy season anything is possible and maybe it better suits this style. But I would never want to support a team that, 2-0 up at half time then plays defense for the rest of the game. I’m sure part of it is that Darth Vader had compete confidence that we could not score a single goal (let alone two). But it’s still dreadful to watch. But that should also disqualify them from picking up any hardware.

I just hope that people will leave Arteta alone and allow him to work with this squad, bring in new players, retool the team and focus on the next two years. The retarded children that support this team – without any sense of history or how the game develops – will cry out for change. They used to – erroneously – complain that Kroenke would not put his money in. They used to – erroneously – complain about only getting into the top 4 but never winning any trophies. We’ve had as much change as we need. Now we need patience. We need to believe in our strategy. We need to believe in Arteta. And we need to replace Xhaka. And if you’ve made it this far, then you’ll realize that the fool is Xhaka.

-LB7