Monthly Archives: January 2017

Jan 28th – Southampton 0 Arsenal 5

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You got to love the F.A. Cup. And you have to love games like this. We cut through them so easily. So much pace and one touch and two-touch football. No-one dwelling on the ball. Quick passes. Did I mention that AR8 was not playing.

As the game lined up I figure this was Arsenal Reserves versus Arsenal Future XI. It’s a nice way to see the best youth players Southampton have on offer for us to buy at some point. This year I was a little disappointed. The only one that looked decent was Sims. Their defender Stephens – who was great against Liverpool – was crap today. Just goes to show how easy it is to look good against Liverpool. Just ask Wolves.

The movement was everything it’s not been of late. Much of the impetus came from both Maitland-Niles-Any-Other-Names and Adelaide. They exuded composure on the ball and positional were excellent. This was clearly the best Adelaide has played for us. He looked like he’s a slightly bigger, more muscular version of Ob1.  Except that he’s touch was superior and passing was excellent. Maitland is not the physical presence of our Coq but on many occasions, he effectively covered and backtracked for our wankey full-backs. Both were very impressive today.

Bellend and Gibbs were our only disappointments today. For someone as experienced as Gibbs – and our captain – he looked very rusty on his return from injury. On a number of occasions he was easily disposed and/or pushed off the ball. And on most occasions Maitland was there to cover for him. In fact, in the first half, there was even one time when Theo was there to clear the ball out of the box. The version of Bellend we saw today was reminiscent of the Bournemouth one. Nearly every move he made was wrong – whether it was his passing or heading. He clearly needs time to rediscover his game.

A word or two on Ospina. Good. Great catches. Safe hands. There that’s it. Aside from his one moment where he went walkabout in the first half.

Our center halves were largely untroubled. Mustafa was solid and, to his credit, I can’t remember Holding having to do too much. If we can draw a lowly team in the next round that should be another opportunity for him to get 90 minutes – he deserves it.

Danny Fucking Welbeck. How resilient and persistent is he? Not really given his injury record. But it was good to see him back and making runs like he did today. Maitland played a simple direct, forward pass (please note Mr. AR8), Perez applied the Giroud like one-touch pass and DW finished with style. For the second it came care of one of many perceptive Ozil-like long forward passes from the Ox. DW’s first touch was not great but he recovered to slot it home. A few Theo like-goal indeed. Then not to be outdone Theo added 3 more. All were classic Theo. After yet another subtle pass from Perez, DW pulled it back for Theo to alertly pass it in. For Theo’s second The Ox reprise his pass for the first goal and for his third it was started by Maitland defending and Perez imitating Ox with the long pass. Perez really is a remarkable player in so many ways. Sure we paid 17m+ for him. But given his lack of playing time he (aside from his first match against Southampton) always finds a way to contribute. For someone we nominally signed as a forward he smoothly fits into a number of slots in our team and our style of play. As previously noted, he’s a faster version, more skillful version of Poldoski. He’s a left-footed player that’s superior to our previous Spanish import from 10+ years ago (Reyes). And this left-footer is not going to runway to ManU. His movement and passing were instrumental to our goals; he just has to improve his finishing. Either way, he will surely get more playing time as the season wears on. If I was Giroud, I’d be worried (but i’d also not enjoy being French).

Sure Southampton were pretty shit. But we’ve made much heavier going of worse teams. The balance of the team was entirely different to our “first” team. The difference is not just the platform that Maitland+Adelaide provided (along with Ox). It was dictated by Theo’s presence. I reckon this is what AW has been waiting for. This is the reason Giroud has been starting. With Theo on the right we have balance. Even though Bellend was shit the combination play with these two is way better – and the pace is electrifying. And, compared to previous years, Theo now actually defends, closes down players and works back in defense. In fact, the entire midfield worked harder to close down their players quick and put them under pressure.

Again, more F.A.Cup games will allow us to see more of Maitland. He could be interesting. Because against Preston – at right-back – he was rotten. Likewise with Adelaide – the more playing time for them the better. Both look at least a season away from being ready but there is real promise there.

How English were we today? Gibbs, Ox, Walcott, Welbeck, Holding, Maitland – 6 players; more than half the team. I’ve seen commentaries (from Arsenal and non-Arsenal fans) over the last few weeks moaning how we don’t have any English players in our team. Such utter bollocks. First off, who cares. Secondly, as AW says, if they are good enough they play irrespective of their passports. Of course, if you’re injured (Gibbs, Theo, DW, Ox) it’s hard to be selected for a game. People – including our own “fans” have it in for AW. They look to pick holes wherever they can. This is yet another example of artificially looking for a bogus issue – and then being plan wrong.

Today was a bright day for us. Healthy signs that our future – with AW – looks bright as we get to see what our more youthful players can do. And, of course, we have the pleasure of seeing the desperation of Alexis to get on the pitch when there is nothing left to play for.

So, fare-ye-well to January. A quite marvelous month for us after the trauma of late December. The future looks much rosier. We know that the well anticipated February/March meltdown is just waiting round the corner for us.

Now onto Tuesday when our ponderous midfield Welsh player will return. And, I know the world is waiting with great anticipation for the launch on the new, all-modern, all-signing and dancing new bradybergkampandbeyond website. The masses are hammering at the gates to get an early preview. It’s currently going through final reviews and sign-off by both management and our copyright lawyers. Once approved then the  media will be notified such that all and sundry can prepare themselves for the startling, eco-friendly, high-tech, green, website. It will be mobile friendly, allow readers to subscribe and also post comments. The excitement is unbearable.

– LB7

Jan 22nd – Arsenal 2 Burnley 1

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Lucky Arsenal? Never. But I’m going out to buy a lotto ticket. They say that good teams have to find ways to win games they don’t deserve; to eek out points. I think we’ve managed to tick that box. What an amazing outcome today. I feel slightly sorry for Burnley. They did not come and put up two defensive lines the way other teams have. Though maybe they should have. And don’t tell me the Premier League is boring and predictable either. This was a fascinating game where the referee was the deciding factor.

We started slowly and feared it would be like some of the previous games where we just decide to play one half. But after about 20 minutes we started to turn up the heat and through both half’s we had long periods of sustained pressure. We squeezed them into the final third and kept trying to kind delicate ways the thread the ball through. After all the heroics of previous weeks it was inevitable that Giroud would not be able to find the net. Alexis tried hard, as ever, but did not have his magic boots on. So it took a Mustafa delicate header for us to take the lead. It was deserved. We dominated and, as expected, speed up our ball movement in the second half. Also deserved was the red card. This was the perfect encapsulation, within a 10 second period, of the worst aspects of Chaka. A careless, simple, misplaced pass right to their player and immediately followed by a rash two-footed challenge. Their nameless player made a big deal and it was classic Jon Moss to give the inevitable red. It was, in truth, borderline. It was two footed but Chaka barely left the ground and hardly touched the guy. But you can’t go in for challenges like that. It was unnecessary and reckless. Just plain poor judgement. And, you’d have thought by now, he’d have realized that tackles like that get you sent off.

In case you don’t remember, I’m not a great fan of our midfield pairing. But hopefully we can appeal the red-card and get it transferred over to Ramsey in agreement for an increased suspension to 10 games. We loose Chaka for 4 games now. Without Carzola and Eleny we can’t handle any more injuries and we will miss Chaka against Chelski. I was hoping Ramsey would pick up his thigh injury before that. But now I’m not sure who we’d be able to play in that pairing. At least we get our Coq back into the team on a regular basis. But the balance with Ramsey and Chaka is not right.  I feel like i same the same thing each week with these two. The movement is too slow and predictable. They don’t drop off to take the ball off the defense. And then you end up with Mustafa giving the ball away too easily. Against teams like Burnley you can get away with it. But this season depends on the games against the top 6 – and against them, you can’t make mistakes like this (though I fear we will).

Ozil worked really hard today. He dropped deeper to pick up the ball. And all the good developments flowed through him. Giroud was off his game. And Ob1 came more into the game as it progressed. Unfortunately he’s part of the problem. When he’s playing out on the right wing we loose our width and shape. He wanders all over the pitch – which is where he starts the shine. This means our balance is off but he has more ways to open up the other team than, say, a Ramsey does. To be fair to Ramsey (which is a painful thing to do), both he and Ob1 would look like superior players if they played in that Ozil position. Ramsey does take up good positions in the opposition box – he just can’t find ways to actually hit the target. BTW, did I mention that his initial passes in the first half were awful. I wonder whether he’s our Jordan Henderson. I watched Henderson on Saturday. He was, as ever, truly boring and awful. It makes so much sense that England always pick him. All his passes went astray. And he’s always passing sideways and backwards. Sound familiar? I’d take AR8 over mechanical Henderson anytime though.

What a result today. Pre the sending off I thought we had the three points in the bag. And then Jon Moss intervenes. It’s not clear he got too much wrong. It’s just that he’s so fat and annoying to watch. And I can’t believe he gave us that (off-side) penalty with seconds to go. And then, without Carzola, to have Alexis take the penalty. You just knew it would be a dinky shot. If their goalie had watched his previous attempts he’d have just stood still. Anyway, at some point you have to give some credit to the team attitude and mentality. But how often can you dig yourself out of these wholes before you eventually fall into them?

With nearly everyone else dropping points this was a very good weekend for us. I don’t have aspirations of winning the league. Remaining in the top 4 has to be our objective. And before the usual wankers complain that that’s not good enough they should ask Chelski, Liverpool and ManU whether that would have been good enough for them last year and whether it will be this year. The competition is fierce and this will, as I’ve said, all depend on the head-to-head games.

– LB7

Jan 14th – Swansea 0 Arsenal 4

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We were shit and they were shittier. I know I should be happy but there are too many parts of this team I don’t like. I know we won 4-0. I know we helped our goal difference. I know we kept a clean sheet. But I also know we are a weak team mentally waiting to be pulled apart.

Swansea had their chances. And the penalty decision ended up deciding the game. In real-time I was sure it was a penalty. In the lead up to the play you could see both Xhaka and Monreal fail to track their players – this was happening the entire first half. And prior to this Mike Jones should have given Dyer a yellow card. So you just knew it that because Jones had kept the card in his pocket after all those fouls on Monreal, that the first card would go to Arsenal. And there were a number of soft challenges where, for example, Ramsey won the ball but a free-kick was given. So it was obvious this was a penalty, right? I was convinced. And assumed that Koscleny picked up the first yellow. Only on third viewing did I appreciate that Ki intentionally dangled his leg out to induce a foul. How in the hell does a (shit) referee catch that in real-time. And therein the game was decided.

So, maybe the best player was Mike Jones? Nope. That would have been the Swansea back-line that decided they wanted to score all our goals. Thank you very much. And overall their defense was atrocious. In their box, all the deflections went our way. And we needed it. We started the game so slowly. Xhaka continues to be careless with the ball. Making simple mistakes on simple passes. Ramsey continues to frustrate. I don’t get his game. His passing is sideways and backwards. He takes too many touches and we loose momentum. Ob1 was ineffective (in the first half) and not involved enough in the game. And Mustafa continues to give the ball away because of his poor distribution. When an opposing coach figures out the best move is to close Mustafa down then we will concede more goals. Sure, I know we’ve not lost a game when he’s started but that’s just a statistical anomaly. These four players (Xhaka, Ramsey, Ob1 and Mustafa) impede our ability to build up play. We need our Coq back. And we should have seen Perez instead of Ob1.

The interesting thing about Ob1 is that his second half was so much superior to his first. As the game wore on he reverted to a more central role and then out to the left wing.  He was more direct and he instigated the moves that lead to most of our goals. When he is confident and takes the ball forward he is so much more impactful.

After the first half an hour it seemed we finally realized that we were supposed to actually play football. There was a little bit more urgency. But it was not until the second half that we truly imposed ourselves. Again. What is it with this mentality where we only play one half of a game. Against a half way decent team we’d be butchered. But thankfully this was woeful Swansea. I don’t care who’s their manager they will be in the Championship next year.

Where is Kieran Gibbs? We need a left-back to challenge Monreal. He looks really quite vulnerable to anyway who has pace. He fails to track back and inside when Koscleny covers out left for him. He just switches off. Maybe our non-league addition can give him competition.

Going into this game I thought it could be the most important game of the season. That was stupid obviously. But it was the type of match where we could have dropped points against a newly motivated team with a new manager. So I’m grateful for the points. But truly, they were shit. And this was them at home with a supportive crowd. They look dead and buried. Of course we at least know who their manager is. If we did not, then the camera man made sure we were aware of it at least once a minute. Now anyone who reads these reports (actually, does anyone – I doubt it) will know one of my favorite peeves is the awful camera work. I’ve resisted mentioning it for a long time but today felt like we found new lows. Between watching their manager and then various fans in the crowd, we were unable to actually watch the game. Compound this with the obligatory replays and I lost count of the number of times we weren’t able to actually watch the game. For many years now I have been thoroughly angered by this. It’s like they (some deep, dark malevolent soul) is trying to turn watching a game into a MTV music video (there, I just dated myself). Why can’t we just watch the fucking game? Also, why are they now insisting on close ups on all the players and the action. You loose depth perspective and can’t track the game or the players movements. I fear this is a trend that will only progressively deteriorate. My only  hope is that, at some point, we’ll get picture-in-picture.  Or get to choose which cameras we can follow. Or maybe we’ll all end up using virtual goggles. And then maybe we’ll be able to insert ourselves into the game avatar-like. I’d have to choose which player I’d want to be. Or, rather, who I’d never be. i.e. Ramsey.

Back to the game. It’s noticeable though how – and this is stating the blindingly obvious – that the same player that looks like shit in one position (i.e. Ramsey or Ob1) can look entirely different – and impressive – in another position (i.e. Ob1). Weird that.

Big Ears was not really exposed or tested today (unlike Monreal). That’s fine but we need Bellend back. Along with our Coq. I fear though that until Ramsey gets injured we’re going to be stuck with  his insufferable dallying on the ball and multi-touches. And then, maybe, someone can go looking for Theo. Maybe, once we attained the pinnacle of his career . that is, the coffee machine, he’s been missing. Maybe it’s a caffeine allergy. Let’s see if we can find Ramsey’s allergies.

– LB7

Jan 7th – Preston 1 Arsenal 2

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Again, it was a game of two halves. This feels like the story of our season. Another cliché which holds true is that the game is 20% talent and 80% mental. Or, in our case 20% talent and 60% mental. Our lack of the mental side of the game makes me go mental. What was that first half performance? There are so many aspects to scream out loud about. And yes, somehow, we found the capacity to win. Undeserved for sure. So, in the spirit of continued clichés, is the glass half empty or half full? We won. But we suck. It’s better than loosing. Does this mean that when we finally do click – i.e. do figure out how to play during both half’s of a game – then we’ll be unstoppable? I don’t know but I do know that we can’t go through an entire season like this. I have that (usual) fear of pending disaster.

As we’ve seen in some many games we started as though it was a training session. There was no drive, passion or energy. Sure Preston played well but we did our best to give them as much space as possible. We so rarely made an attempt to close them down. The goal came from Ramsey being schooled in midfield by their Everton loanee to be followed by Monreal ball-watching and letting his man get in behind him. After a few ricochets the balls in our net. Then for the balance of the half we proceeded to give them a few more chances. They should have gone in 2 nil up. Mustafa – as he’s done too often this season – made a dreadful attempt at a clever clearance on the edge of our area and handed them a great chance to score. In this instance Monreal was there to clear up the mess after Ospina got caught in no-mans land.

Players who had a chance to shine against lower opposition and thus lay a claim to the first team failed miserably. The Ox reverted to last years form. He rarely was able to beat his man and too often lost the ball. There was a brief period in the 2nd half when he actually came alive. But again, it just did not look like he was engaged in the game. Chaka found a way to not concede a penalty. But he also found ways to give the ball away and forget to close down the opposition. And then there’s our favourite Welshman. How insipid was he? For someone who used be his national captain it’s unfathomable as to how ineffective he can be. For the entire first half he slowly drifted around the pitch. He displayed no urgency and still attempted his stupid little back-heels. At some point he tried to twinkle toe his was into their net when a simple shot would have worked. Thankfully, that’s exactly what he did when the second half restarted. We began that half how we should have started the game. Maybe, just maybe, AW reminded the team that they were supposed to turn up. For the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half we dominated, closed them down and played with urgency. But then, gradually, we again lost our momentum. Though they did not create any chances we started to give away loose balls, forget to close them down and gave the ball back too easily. Though it was unlikely Preston would now win, it was depressing to see us revert back to type.

The only players to come out with any credit today were Perez and Ob1. Niles-Maitre-Dee was awful – poor old Carl watching that performance. Previously Niles had looked quite decent but today he had no clue. He must have been watching Bellends’ Tuesday performance. He got beaten so easily and his positional sense was awful; he dribbled in the wrong positions and lost his man often. Unfortunately, on the other side of the pitch Monreal again showed why we need Gibbs to find his fitness. He’s movement is too slow. Down the left hand side he’s runs are too few and his movement is too predictable. And his defending is too weak. It’s hard to fathom what’s happened to his game.

As for our two center half’s – they do not seem on the same page. We seemed unable to hold a back-line. Too often they were able to sit on the last man who was not in a line with the other defenders and therefore we could not get them offside. Some of this is leadership that we lack without Kosclieny but they are both internationals so they should know how to play the game. Mustafa needs more games. And he has to figure out his distribution. It sucks. He makes Toure-like passes whereas he should be finding our midfield players. Who, to be fair, we’re missing in-no-action.

Though we’re not going to buy anyone in this transfer window it’s a shame we can’t sell Ramsey and buy someone else. Though he got the first goal – see, that’s what happens when you do shot – overall his sideways play and too many touches does not fit our style. And his defending and tackling is flimsy at best. Against a decent team he will get ripped apart. The combination of Ramsey and Chaka is our weakest. But, for the next few weeks, we have no choice. And that sucks. We missing having our hard Coq and, of course, Santi as well. It’s more than likely though that Ramsey will pick up his regular thing/hamstring injury any game now.

Perez continues to make good runs. He’s a modern-day Podolski. He’s a Podolski who can defend. He’s a Podolski who can actually run. And he needs to get more time on the pitch. He’s earned it. As opposed to Ox. This was his opportunity and again he blew it. Without Theo to take his game time he should be asserting himself. But today he was very weak.

And Ob1 is schizophrenic. When he plays out wide he’s not involved enough in the game and can’t defend. But when he plays in the #10 role, he’s more dynamic and direct. Today he was the only one who tried to move the ball quickly through the final 1/3rd. Sure, he faded later in the game but he was a smaller version of Sanchez today – working and running.  But when Ozil returns he’s get pushed back wide.

We’ve lucked out twice this week now. And both times care of Giroud. Both games he was crap for the bulk of the game but still found a way to score really important goals. I hope the retards out there were satisfied on the appropriateness of his celebration. Talking about putting a spotlight on something so trivial and blowing it out of all proportion. Surely the story on Tuesday was our abysmal first 70 minutes (of which Giroud was a major contributor) not his homage to his scorpion celebration. But somehow that’s what dominated the discussion. How fucked up is that?

So, where does this leave us? We are now understrength in midfield. But worse, we’re understrength in our attitude. And that brings into question AW and his match preparation. How can this team start the game how it did today after it’s abysmal first 70 minutes against Bournemouth? How could that not be fresh in their minds? And then to start the 2nd half the way they did demonstrates that it is all mental. So, why this problem? We’ve seen it all year. Against Manu away, ManC away and Everton. I fear for the Swansea game. It’s big one for us. A full weeks rest and preparation against a team with a new manager. We can’t drop points in this one. But more importantly we have to play for the entire game. This, again, is down to AW. Watching those wankers grab 3 points on Wednesday demonstrated how committed they are. Just like Liverpool and Darth Vaders team. It’s not our talent that’s in question (well, not yet anyway). Where’s our consistent commitment? And why should we even be questioning it? I worry it comes back to the perennial question of on-field leadership and AW ability to suitably motivate this team. Today we were lucky. On Tuesday we were lucky. But luck runs out eventually whereas class is permanent – so they say. But unfortunately we’ve also shown that that is also intermittent.

Give me Theo. Give me Gibbs. Return the real Bellerin. And then, between now and the end of the season (which could be any week now) we have to find some consistency. And for that, I look to our master – AW. Let’s hope it starts in Wales.

– LB7

Jan 3rd – Bournemouth 3 Arsenal 3

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Belated happy new year to you my reader(s). I’ve been unable to post due to the demands of pre-transfer period scouting on behalf of Arsenal. AW himself requested that I help identify targets for this transfer window and subsequently I’ve been traveling the green fields of England searching for suitable upgrades (notice how I chose not to search for anyone in Wales). Anyway, unfortunately the best I could do was find a remarkable goalkeeper with immense potential but unfortunately he’s a midget and also injury prone.

I was able to enjoy the West Brom game (which was utterly unenjoyable) and the Crystal Palace romp care of our acrobatic Giroud. So, given that this is Arsenal I had that regularly impending sense of doom going into this match. And boy did this team not let me down.

The first 10 minutes or so we looked quite good given the team selection. But then we proceeded to be one of those teams we like to play against. That is, the team that gives up two goals in a few minutes. Both were horrendous mistakes. The first by Bellend and the second by Chakakhan.

So let’s start with Bellend. How fucking dreadful was he? He reached new lows today. Lows that even Santos or Jenkinson would have been embarrassed with. Utterly stank out the place. Not a single pass, move or run worked today. It was as though he’d been on the piss since new years eve and has not stopped. How he could get sucked out of position so easily for that first goal was amateurish – even when Ramsey pointed out the man he should be marking he still stayed focused on the player that was now being marked by Musafa. And then he proceeded to get skinned by a no-name left back. He looked more interested in his hairnet than in defending. Complete bollocks.  And that was just the start. His passing was off as were all his decisions. And then for their final goal – which could have been called a foul. In fact, though Michael Oliver had an outstanding game, the push on Bellend was not that dissimilar from Chakakhans that lead to the penalty. But Bellend has to be more physical. Fraiser, who is even smaller than Bellend, blew on him and he fell over. Pathetic. If we weren’t so far behind and already using two subs, I would have ripped the guy off the field and cut his balls of. BTW, in both these instances Cech did not exactly cover himself in glory.

Phew, ok, that’s Bellend dealt with for the moment. Chakakhan! What kind of fucking defending was that. The guy was running away form the goal. There was no need to make any sort of challenge. It was a clear penalty and completely unnecessary. Classic Arsenal self-destruction. All three of their goals were through our mistakes. That’s not to say Bournemouth did not play well. Even at the end, down to 10 men, they could have won the game. They found it very easy to rip apart our defense.  After their first goal they played the better football. As the crowd noted, why would Wilshire want to move from this team to ours?

The balance in our team was wrong. I was lucky enough to be joined by DB10 for this match. He duely noted that AW got the selection wrong today. We should have left Ob1 in the 10 spot. Starting Ramsey there was a waste. We had no fluency. Giroud was not in the game and we could not get the ball to Sanchez. Only when Coq got injured – and we seem to be replicating Rosicky hamstring injuries on various team members – Ramsey dropped back and Ob1 got more involved in the game. And, coincidentally, Ramsey also got more involved. He really is box to box and is wasted as a number 10.

It’s also worrying to see Koscleny go off – that’s the spine of our team now on the physios  workbench. If only we could put Bellend in there as well.

Anyway, we deserved to be 3-0 down and heading to oblivion. But then, against the odds we woke up. To be fair that does not include Sanchez, who was the only one working his arse off the entire game. But once Perez came on we looked a different team. The ball got feed to Sanchez more often and even the useless Monreal was able to support him. Did I mention that this is 3 games in a row where Monreal has been shit. He gets beaten way to easily. It’s so annoying that Gibbs had to bundle into that late tackle to pick up his obligatory injury. If he’d not have done that then I’m sure Gibbs would be starting. As it is he’s crowding out the injury room with the aforementioned players. And having Ox in front of Bellend meant we had a little more edge on the right hand side. And that’s where the first goal came from. A nice flick from Giround – who finally decided to participate in the game – and predatory Sanchez was there to finish it off.

And then we had the exquisite finish of Perez – very Podolski like (thanks FatBoy for that reminder). And finally the equalizer from Giroud – along with his wonderful celebration moves. We could still have won the game in the final minutes – which would have been very unfair on Bournemouth. But it’s a minor miracle that we could come out of this match with a point. At 3-0 down I’m sure we all thought we were dead and buried. I don’t believe Arsenal have even come back from a 3-0 deficit (at least not since the Premier League has been in existence). So that’s some achievement. It does show some character. And I was shouting, cheering and mighty relived at the end. But, again, we have to sort out the balance in the team. Ob1 can’t play right wing (notice that he had drifted right across the pitch when the play was switched for their first goal). I’m still concerned that with Giroud upfront we are too slow and static though he does keep scoring. Perez has now earned the right to start – his movement is dynamic and he can chase back and defend. And we need to get Sanchez more involved. Today he was our best player by a country mile. With all due respect to Ozil, Sanchez is our clear super-star. We must do everything to retain him. Today he was the heart and soul of the team. He is our one player that would walk (or, in his case, run) into every other top 5 PL team.

We now have a stupid F A Cup game. For this I would play Bellend as punishment. Don’t give him any rest. Then for the next league game I’d drop him – play Gabriel there (assuming Koscleny is fit). I hated everything about him today (like you could not tell). Most annoying (again as DB10 observed), was that given his shitty performance he should have tailored his movement and passes to minimize mistakes given that someone must have slipped him some kryptonite.

Do I think we can catch Chelski – hell no. Not a chance. But it’s a long season and others will drop points. My fear though is that this team is too fragile. When Bournemouth were high pressing us, we looked unable to play our game. Again, that’s because of the lack of balance in the team. We miss Santi – but that’s not going to change. And we need Chakahan to stop making unforced errors. Yes, he’s young (thanks FatBoy) but he’d still an international who should know better. We also missed TW14 today – who would have thought I’d say that last season. Hopefully he’s back soon. But, honestly, I don’t think this team is good enough to win the league. It’s definitely better than last year – but then so are the other 5 teams.  That’s also why the losses to Everton and ManCity are so frustrating. We should never have caved into either of them. But that’s an issue of leadership and backbone; which we are lacking.

There will be very thin margins come the end of the season. We might end up being grateful for the point today but we will certainly regret giving ManCity those 3 points.

And finally, let’s take a moment to discuss the referees. What the fuck is Mike Dean doing on the Premier League approved list. He killed the West Ham game yesterday. Absolutely unforgivable decision for that sending off. Compare that to Michael Oliver today. He let play continue and stayed out of the limelight. Dean has been our nemesis in the past and yesterday he was there to bail out ManU. Not that they need help with all their money. But they look shit and boring. A long way from winning the league. We are going to have to contend with Liverpool, ManC and Sp*rs for the top 4. Which means when we play away at two of these venues we can’t loose. How we play against the top 5 will determine our season. And the first one will be against Chelski on Feb 4th. Let’s hope we have some of our spine back by then.

– LB7

Dec 14th – Everton 2 Arsenal 1

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Thud. That’s the noise when you come clattering (or Clattenberging) back down to earth. It’s taken 24 hours to recover and put together the usual drivel. After missing the Stoke report I was hoping for a happy return.

You knew the run would come to an end at some point. But you’d have guessed that would be at Man City; not at Everton. And it was so unnecessary. We should have put them away in that first 20 minute period. We started brightly – a continuation of Stoke. We dominated and scored (fortunately though that was). And then Everton woke up. They started to press us. But even then Cech had no saves to make. Not that Stecklenberg was tested too much either.

This was one of those games we did not deserve to lose but we did not do enough to win either. After our goal we seemed to retreat and lose our fluency. All the second balls seemed to fall to them.  They had more energy but we had the better style. Our game was still superior but we could not take our chances. Ozil had one slightly difficult one in the first half after Alexis pulled the ball back. And then in the second half he had an even clear chance that he blasted over the bar. Given that we did not have that many direct chances on goal, that was a game changer. Aside that is from the injury time chances we missed. How Ob1 managed to find the one player – Coleman – on the line to block a certain goal is beyond me. And then how Clattenberg did not see the penalty foul on Alexis is equally annoying. Under any other circumstances we’d have come away with at least a point. There’s no doubt who were the better team but if you don’t take your chances it matters not.

Unfortunately both goals came from unmarked headers. The first one came as Theo failed to tackle and then closedown Baines. Then the late arrival of Coleman was not tracked by Ox. Two of our players who, more generally, were off their game today. Neither really contributed much aside from defensive mistakes.  As for the Williams header, that looked to be the breakdown in zonal marking. And it looked like the only way they would score.

What did we learn today? Well, aside from trying to find a less painful and emotionally stressful way to spend 1 ½ hours, it does seem like tiredness is starting to creep in. Of course, this is no different to other teams. Except that the core of our team is critical. And they play most of every game. We also need to give more time to Giroud. When he came on he seemed slow to the ball – waiting for it to come to him rather than him moving towards the ball. This comes through rustiness. He needs more playing time. Somehow we have to rotate Theo/Ox to get him in there.  And then there’s OB1. He’s morphing into our Ramsey replacement. He’s passing today was poor and that miss was appalling – it costs us the point.

It’s a long season and we still are moving in the right direction. But we’re at risk – as we’ve always been – to Ozil and Alexis. Today demonstrated we’re not as good as our all the pundits claimed nor as bad as this result would indicate. Having said that I would assume that a team like Liverpool would crush Everton – which, of course, we should have done. They wont waste chances and they’ll be more of a direct threat. It’s funny, the one fear I had going into the game – that Lukaku would overpower us – did not happen. Yet somehow we manage to throw away the points.

I thought Coq was big today. In fact, though Clattenberg was poor in so many of his decision (not least the penalty), it was surprising that Coq did not pick up a yellow card. He’s partnership with Xhaka is certainly gelling. It was noticeable how Xhaka dropped to take the ball off our defenders. And it was noticeable how different our distribution is with BigEars as opposed to Mustafi. Not that BigEars can be blamed for anything. It just cuts into our fluency.

There were periods in the first half when we were aggressive and shutting down their movement but as the game wore on that wore off. We seemed to surrender our advantage and the initiative. We invited more pressure. In fact, any every opposing manager to play a high pressing game on us; that’s where we shown ourselves to be vulnerable.

And who was scared stiff when Cech went up for the corner? Last time he did that he hurt his hamstring/calf (against Swansea I think) and was out injured for 2 months. Let’s hope he did not repeat that feat.

So, onto Sunday and a super important game. After all the results from yesterday and today we really must come away with at least a point. But, even in the worst case, it would not be the end of the world – except our collapse usually does not start until we reach February.

We did have excellent periods during this game but we, in games of fine margins, you have to take your chances. Pleas take note Mr. Ozil.

– LB7

Dec 6th – Basel 1 Arsenal 4

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That was easy, lemon squeezy. Two silky smooth games in a row. A nice way to wave good bye to November. Long live December.

How enjoyable was it to see 10 man Arsenal decimate Basel. It’s a pleasure to sit back and watch the fluent play of this team when it’s humming. Again, it only works because of the movement  of Alexis and Ozil. You could see when Giroud came on how we lost that penetrating speed. But at least Giroud does give us another option.

How fluid are we currently? The interchange and quick movement is in stark contrast to a month ago. It’s as though we’re starting to solve our non-Santi problem. I know the opposition today and on Saturday were not the sternest test. But you have to enjoy these games when you can. This is our little purple patch. It won’t take long to return to earth. Let’s hope it last more than 2 games. But since Santi disappeared this is as smooth as we’ve looked. And all with 10 men 🙂

Hmm, why would I say that? Oh, I know. That person occupying the #8 shirt was basically not present. His first touch of the game involved him loosing the ball. His first header went right to their player. His entire contribution was negative. He’s far too stationary. Early in the first half you could see Obe1 come off the flank to pick up the ball from our center halves. Xhaka (ours not theirs) made angles to receive the ball from our defenders. Where as our Welsh Jesus was hidden behind their players. He does not seem to understand where he should be positioned to receive the ball. He’s quickly turning into to last year Theo and Ox combined. Frustrating and destabilizing to the team. He can’t win tackles and is too slow to recover. There was another instance when he and BigEars bollocks’d up their passing and yet he could not track back.

Taking a break from that issue…..In truth Basel had a number of chances – we’re just more clinical. It was great to see Gibbs set up the first two and for Perez to score three. He still needs more playing time. But you can see his mobility allows him to slot into our playing style quite nicely. He was, most importantly, in the right place to take the straight-forward chances. He still won’t start but he really helps provide different options of the bench. And you know with our injury luck he’ll get another chance soon (against Preston I’d guess).

I liked the performance of both BigEars and Holding. BigEars is definitely a better option than Jenkinson. But we, obviously, still need our Hector back asap. Holding was quite impressive again. Apart from his sloppy passing that lead to their goal. If that is the price of him learning a valuable lesson then, in a walkover game like this, then it would have been well worth it. Except, that right after that, he switched off again. But he’s young and so much better than his natural competitor – Chambers (not that I’ve seen him playing for Middlesborough yet). Anyway, I can just imagine the team-sheet in a year when he’s established himself in the team – it will read Holding My Coq…..

Xhaka is also part of the reason for our improved play. Compared to our #8, when he receives the ball he looks to immediately play forward; his passing is forcefully forward. Whereas #8 is sideways and misplaced. Xhaka is settling in and learning to link up with Ozil and Alexis. This is – along with Kolscleny – the spine of our team now (whereas Ramsey was the spine of their team). Once you add back our Coq for Ramsey you now have a strong core to the team from which you can play Theo and others. Today we saw Ob-one. He’s still not found his groove. Though he scored a goal he’s still not figured out when to pass and when to dribble. He still has a tendency to give the ball away outside of our penalty area and put Gibbs under pressure. But he’s working hard and moving all over the pitch. At least with Ob-One there is genuine potential; he’s a youngster. Whereas the Welsh Jesus is an established international already. I don’t get him. Though that must be obvious by now. Maybe it’s just his reoccurring injuries that have hindered him from finding his form. He went off early and I suspect there’s another injury looming for him.

I was surprised that AW started both Alexis and Ozil. I would have rested them. But that’s why he’s the manager. He obviously wanted us to get control of the game and the result. And also retain our shape and interplay. And, naturally, he was right (again).

And what about all those commentators (and fans) who were bleating (again) when we drew at home to PSG. Who complained about AW and the UCL? Well, fuckers, we won our division. So fuck you. Of course, we’ll still end up playing either Bayern or Real Madrid in the next round.

It’s been a good few days of footy – watching Bournemouth come back against Liverpool, seeing DarthVader drop 2 more points in the last 3 minutes, having Aguero and Fernandinho suspended for our games. And, of course, our last two victories. It seems like we rediscovered our scoring touch 🙂

We now have a tough game against the less physical Stoke at the weekend. Let’s hope we can retain our momentum.

– LB7

Dec 3rd – West Ham 1 Arsenal 5

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Brilliant. Just fucking brilliant. Alexis Sanchez. He scores when he wants. If I believed in reincarnation I’d want to come back as one of his dogs. To be so close to perfection. I could learn something. That was a Bergkampeque performance today. And the rest of the team was pretty good as well (minus one or two that is). How talented is this guy? How irreplaceable is he? Poor old Giroud. He’s got no shot.

We started so well and finished even better. In-between we were pretty good. As shitty as WH were we totally dominated. Man, that was so much fun. These type of games comes along so rarely you have to savior it.

Where to start? Alexis? Hmm, possibly, Quite a nice day from him. For a period I thought he was only going to pass to Ozil. But as the game wore on he developed a relationship with The Ox.

We had so many chances to score in the first 15 minutes – all down our left hand side. Between Monreal and Ox we could not seem to get that killer pass into the box. But WH, being of generous mind and body, decided to tee one up for us. Though to be fair it all came from our hard Coq intercepting the ball. But thereafter it was all Alexis. Dancing around Reid and laying it up for his friend Ozil. I swear if Theo was there Alexis would have shot himself.

The rest of the half was a little painful. We continued to dominate. We had numerous breaks and chances but could not convert any of them. You began to wonder whether we’d squander the lead at some point. How often when we looked to cross the ball from the left were Theo and Ozil on the far edge of the box and not running into open space? Also, it seemed like Ozil was essentially playing alongside Alexis in that first half.

The second half seemed to be progressing the same way. We would cut open their defense and fail to score. Until Alexis decided to cease passing and starting shooting. Their goalie was pretty good – excellent last week at Manure – but was made to look average by Alexis even though he made some fine saves. How can you not burst out laughing when Alexis turns it on like that? He created his chances out of limited opportunities where no-one else could manufacture a goal. It’s hard to know which was his best goal. The most important was his first but the most beautiful was the last one. That step-over was exquisite; it was perfect. Today Alexis was the king.

It was also interesting to note the development of The Ox. No longer on the bench nor the first substitution to go off. Today, aside from some little passing issues, he was excellent. Dynamic and forward charging. Of course, some of that was because of the acres of room he had to operate in. Theo, who had the same space, did not take advantage. He missed his chances and did not provide the same level of link up play as the Ox. I’m not complaining about anyone today. Not after a score line like this. But let’s at least note that Theo was not at his best. I was also a little surprised that he did not work as hard on defense given that he had BigEars behind him playing an unfamiliar role. Many times he could have worked back but did not. Even when he got his knee injury – and then his head banged – Theo did not seem sufficiently aware that BigEars needed help. Not that BigEars did badly. He’s an improvement on poor Jenkinson. Who would have fitted in perfectly in this West Ham team.

At half-time I was concerned that we’d pull a Man City – they had dominated Chelski but somehow contrived to miss the clearest of chances and then leak 3 goals against the run of play. BTW, Fabergas, while still a defensive liability, picked out a number of worldclass, pinpoint passes. Anyway, ManCity dominated and could not score. I feared that would be our fate once they brought on the BigPonyTail. Instead we tore them apart. Our breakaway movement was breathtaking. And a lot of that emanated from Ozil and The Ox. And, it seems now, that Alexis has found someone else besides Ozil that he trusts enough to pass to – The Ox. You could see when he did set up Theo he was frustrated. But today The Ox made good decisions and played the right forward pass. In the first half he tried a delicate pass beyond their back line with the outside of his right foot. That was a sign of his confidence and of things to come.

How nice was it to see Ramsey on the bench. Our Coq and Xhaka nailed down the defensive protection in front of our defense and still provided sufficient creativity to keep the ball moving forward. This has to be our pairing until either Santi returns or one of them accumulate too many cards (we know which one will happen first). Not that I was happy to see him come on. After Wednesday he should not have been the first guy off the bench. But Theo should have been the first guy off. It’s not clear what Ramseys role is now. But on a day like today I don’t fucking care about him.  I care that our team hummed and cut through their midfield and defense. We were so quick on the counteract. We looked dangerous everytime. Again, poor Giroud. We just can’t play like this with him out there. Nor with Ramsey :).

It could have been 8 but I’m happy to settle for 5. I liked our defense. Not that they tested us much. BigEars was in the wars but did well. Monreal went unchallenged in defense and was effective going forward. So now we seem to have real competition for places between Ox, Theo and Iwobi. This is good for all of them; we can rotate them as needed and you know another injury is just around the corner. Elneny and Ramsey can come off the bench (in that order please) and Giroud can be our super sub. Midweek he should start while we wrap Alexis and his dogs up in cotton wool.

And who would imagine that the Ox would shot and also hit the target. Again, let’s prey this is the rediscovery of his football IQ. It has been missing for a while. But today he was a pleasure to watch. He was aggressive, defended well and creative going forward. Note also that AW switched The Ox to be in front of BigEars in the second half. Because unlike Theo, he did provide defensive cover. And he scored! Amazing. But having Alexis trust him is even more important.

So no complaints or moaning today. That was just so fucking enjoyable. This is why I love football. We murdered them. Can we play them every week? Are we good enough to win the league? I still don’t think so. But we’re good enough to rip apart so many teams and play the most consistently entertaining football in the league. Enough to make you proud to follow the best (see definition in last sentence) in England. In my little mind we’re already champions. I suspect that’s where it will remain though. Ok, I’m off to celebrate…..

– LB7

Nov 30th – Arsenal 0 Southampton 2

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Well, that was fun. Or not. I’m ambivalent. Yes we lost. But the good news is we don’t have to worry about a stupid competition we never seem to win and in which we always seem to pick up impactful injuries.

If we have played for 900 minutes I don’t think we’d have scored. Some players were simply awful (hmm, I wonder who – more on that later).

It’s a good experience for our younger players and gives us a chance to see who has the potential and how flatters to deceive (unfortunately more the latter then the former). It also gives the fringe players time playing time. But, honestly, after tonight’s viewing that are certain players who just don’t deserve any (hmm, I wonder who).

There are some reasons to be happy though (I think). Iwobi looked very sharp. He’s final decision-making is still lacking. But, at least, he brought energy and drive to his play. He tried to create. It was just that certain players (hmm, I wonder who) were static and this provided no options.

Also, Maitley-Niles-whatever does look like a good prospect. Calm on the ball and skillful. There’s no expectation that he’s a full-back but he did OK when he came in. I do like the look of him. He is the beneficiary of this type of competition and now he’s going to get even more reduced playing time.

Chaka can. Elneny can’t. Our momentum changed with this enforced change. Elneny is a steady Eddy but we already had one sideways and backwards passer of the ball in the team (Hmm, I wonder who). So though it’s not good to see him limp off we improved once Xhaka came on. He’s more direct and picks out better forward passes. Yes. Actual passes that move the ball forward. We can’t afford though to see him injured. The balance in midfield was way better with him and the Coq. That should be our base pending Santi’s return.

I was not impressed with Jenkinson today. He was out of position for the first goal and was at fault with his distribution and strength (or lack of) for the second goal. Along, of course, with a certain other player. Jenkinson seems like a player that plays better when he’s got better players around him – he rises to their level but here he sank to the level of BigEars. Either way he can’t be proud of his performance and we need Bellerin to heal more quickly. In fact, we need some Spanish magic potion.

I was not impressed either with our goalie. Maybe he’s good enough to be our number 3, and I know he’s young, but he feels like another Flappyanski. Not that that’s so bad – just not good enough for us.

Overall our first half play though was so turgid. So much sideways movement and no incisive passing. All so slow. We dominated possession without any clear idea as to what we wanted to do with the ball. Lucas was way off his game. He was very poor tonight. But, given his recent return from injury that’s not too surprising. He needs a lot more playing time. There is no doubt that he’ll never be at the Alexis level of play but he’s certainly better than he demonstrated this evening.

It’s quite a feat that I’ve not written this season about what I would have bet anyone I would have by late November. At season start I would have sworn blind that I would be bemoaning the inconsistency of Theo, the inadequacies of the Ox and the incompetence of Ramsey. Tonight I get to correct one of these three.

Who would have guessed that this would be the night for Ramsey to have one of his all time worst performances an Arsenal shirt. This performance harkens back to a few years ago. I really didn’t expect this one today. He was playing in his preferred position. Maybe he thought the competition and the supporting cast was beneath him. On the evidence, today I think the others could feel that way about him.

Where to start? He’s positional play was terrible. In the second half, how many times was he positioned so close to Xhaka that he could not receive the ball and help our movement. He did not move around to be in a position to offer an option. He’s overall passing was predictable, slow and passive. I don’t have the stats (of course) but I don’t need them. He passed the ball sideways and backwards for most of the game. And then when he was on the ball he held on to it for too long. He took any momentum out of our play. He’s passes we’re off and his shooting was pathetic. His movement was limited and his vision was nonexistence. Apart from that he was fantastic.

This was his chance to shine in the Ozil position. Unfortunately, someone forget to plug him in. He was lack-luster and slow. He was the most experienced player we had out there. This was his chance to lead the team and he failed miserably. In fact, he looked lost. He wandered around the pitch but did nothing. The best plays we had in the first half was when Iwobi drifted into the central midfield position. But then again Ramsey would be standing their blocking any progress. And of course, like Jenkinson, he was at fault for the breakdown that lead to their second goal. He has no speed to recover nor did he show any desire to recover. In the second half Xhaka tried to drive us forward but Ramsey was just not linking up the play. We missed a number 10 today (or a number 8). It was though good to see this in a match that does not mean that much. This should put to rest the idea that he can play the Ozil position. The problem is I don’t know what position he can play. Because he can’t play on the wings either. If you consider the experience of Ramsey – captain of his national team, player at important international tournaments – and then objectively try and identify that player on the pitch today, I think you’d have picked 10 others first (and most from Southampton). It’s very worrying that at this stage of his Arsenal career, that he’s not made any progress. Maybe we should have sent him to Bournemouth and kept Jack. Anyway, I pray that against West Ham he’s on the bench.

Did anyone notice whether Adelaide was on the pitch? I barely noticed him. Again, I know he’s a youngster. But this was a rare chance for him to step up and lay claim to more playing time. He also failed. Again, I don’t mind too much. It’s not the end of the world. He was never going to be a mainstay of our team this year. It’s just – on his part – a wasted opportunity.

I was not overly impressed with our central defenders today. I thought Holding could have done better on their second goal. Also, some of his distribution was off. He needs to keep to more simple, short passes and not try that long ball stuff. Beside this he was not too bad. I still like him and think he’s and upgrade of Chambers. BigEars though is a worry. There is so much to like about him. But he just seems off in his judgement (though not as off as Ramsey). He losses the ball in important places and gets caught out of position. But, maybe, for a 3rd or 4th central defender he’s not so bad.

What a penis the ref was today. It seemed like for every mistime tackle he gave a yellow card. He was unquestionably not the reason we lost but he was still very annoying. Watch out for Kevin Friend. He will definitely disrupt some important games in the future – just hopefully not ours.

BTW, it should be said that Southampton were the better team and deserving of their victory. They were far more direct going forward. They had pace and quicker interplay.

So I don’t really care about the result. Honest. I’m not too upset. It was just so boring and predictable to watch (until Xhaka came on) and then slightly depressing to see us waste so many chances. It does tell us though that we really are dependent – squad-wise – on a couple of key players; our superstars. If they had played we would have won. But that’s not good enough. We should have expected more from our senior players. Lucas and, of course, Ramsey.

But I’ll take the reduced fixture list and the optimism that Iwobi, Xhaka and Nileyperson performance generated.

– LB7

Nov 26th – Arsenal 3 Bournemouth 1

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A short one today (as the actress said to the bishop). An important win to break the November who-do. Not entirely deserved. As a wise man once said, it’s more important to gain points when you’re playing poorly than when you’re playing well. We will find our grove again (most likely when Santi) returns.

This game was vaguely reminiscent of the Middlesborough one. They had a number of clear cut chances to win and squandered them. Sometimes it’s just the difference in finishing that will separate a bunch of teams.

How depressed are you some mornings when you wake up? How sad a life do you have? Then console yourself you don’t ever wake up knowing your name is Mathew Debuchy. It took me a while to even realize he was starting. He had a couple of nice touches and then after 15 minutes and waiting 18 months he went off injured. This man was not destined to be an Arsenal player.

We are though short in that position. Hopefully our star right-back i.e. Jenkinson will be back for our next (non-EFL) game.

In front of him we again saw the hard-working, tackling version of Theo. It only took him 10 years to figure it out – that boys’ a fast leaner. And he can head the ball as well. There were several times when he actually won a few headers before soaring like an eagle to head in our second goal.

I am starting to worry about Monreal. He was killed by Valencia against Mourinohs’ monsters and he’s yet to recover. He was vulnerable again today. In fact, all their danger came down his side of the pitch. Gibbs must be wondering when he’s going to get his place back. The worst thing for Monreal was getting back into the Spanish team. But Gibbs was the one player who I thought would have started today. Not Dubuchy nor Eleneny or Xhaka. If I was The Coq I would be super pissed off. And he was not brought on to protect the lead. Very interesting that by AW. I figured he’d take of Ox – who did not play too bad. But when he gets tired he makes more and more mistakes and in a tight game he’s the first one off the pitch. But Theo could have stayed on. Having said that, Giroud was very effective when he came on. Shockingly good third goal that he helped set up. I was sure the ball would run out of play before he could cross it to Alexis.

And I’m surprised that Sanchez did not stop the ball on the line and look for Ozil before passing to him. These two seem like a team of two. But what a team. Sanchez was at his best today. So much energy and work-rate. I wish others could follow his example. And he’s passing was pretty amazing (to Ozil at least).

Mustafi recovered from his midweek passing debacle and was pretty solid. And Koscleny was outstanding yet again. But they did not get the usual coverage in front of them. Though Eleney played reasonably well I’d still prefer to see my Coq there playing alongside Xhaka. Others have observed that Xhaka played very well. I’m still not convinced but it’s early days yet. He’s too careless with the ball around our own box. But he also needs more time to settle down. I’m not unhappy with him but I’d like to see him pick up the pace of his game. Let’s see a Coq/Xhaka combination against West Ham please.

Interestingly when Ramsey came on he played in the Ozil position who then switched out to Theos’. And, of course, it did not stop Ozil form crafting goals and opportunities. It really does not matter what position he plays as he’ll glide around the pitch and create for others. But Ramsey looks so much better in the center of the pitch than when he’s put out onto the wings.

And this a happy report solely because of Cech. Again, he saved us. I really should be keeping count of how many points he’s saved us.

Overall then a nice weekend. Thank you Chelski. Thank you West Ham. Please be more generous next week.

– LB7