Author Archives: bradybergkampandbeyond

Sept 2nd – Cardiff 2 Arsenal 3

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Undefeated in two games. Two wins in a row. We’ll be challenging for 5th place before you know it. Thank you, Cardiff. Can we play you next week? Who knew the Welsh could be so hospitable?

It’s all about selection. While surprisingly attacking we finally got to see Cigarette and Aubamayeng start the game together. And while both scored wonderful games the overall contribution of Cigarette was outstanding. The best player on the pitch. He was alive and active the entire game. And he scored a wonderful goal that earned us the three points we tried so desperately to throw away.

What a wankey way to start the game though. Cech is being put in the position of looking like an old age pensioner in a 100 meter sprint. It’s embarrassing. And against a half way competent team we’d have been 1-0 down within the first 5 minutes. Luckily Arter is only good for thuggish tackling and has no other talent. When you’re not good enough for Bournemouth you can only end up at Cardiff.

Cardiff predictably pressured our defense when we had possession and, most of the time, we seemed to handle that except when poor old Cech was involved. He just looks so uncomfortable. It’s really a microcosm of how the game has changed. When he first started playing professionaly he was a trend-setter. A young goalie at Chelski that changed what was expected in terms of the way he imposed himself and dominated games. But that was all about shot topping and owning the penalty box. Now, care of Pep, we demand that our goalkeeper is as comfortable on the ball as the other defenders. It’s all the rage. Look at Allison at Liverpool. Cech is not the only who’s finding it nearly impossible to adapt. It will though be the end of him. It will sap his confidence and undermine the skills he so clearly still possesses. In the meantime, we’re on a knives edge playing out from the back.

We’re not helped by the continued lack on imbalance in midfield. If we’re going to play out of the back we need midfielders making themselves available to receive the ball from the defenders. It happened when Torreira came on. But, in the first half, Ozil and Ramsey rarely showed for the ball. It was though good to see both of them play together. Ramsey was more impactful in the first half but continually found space to operate on the left. Ozil started to impose himself in the second half. There were times we started to feel like a team.

However, we still conspired to give up two goals to a club that is destined to return to the Championship within one season. If you could be relegated half way through a season then Cardiff and West Ham would prime candidates. Both of their goals were essentially unforced errors. The first one was inexplicable except that it was our friend Xhaka at his best. There you are, an international, experienced player with your team 1-0 away from home within a couple of minutes of half-time and you decide to play an under hit, lazy cross-field ball that exposes the team to a counter-attack. You then dawdle back into the center of defense to offer a weak attempt to win a header. Thereafter the ball fortunately drops to their striker to score. A goal out of nothing. And the second goal? After watching a handful of free-kicks all being payed the same way – onto the head of Morrison their lumbering giant of an unskilled footballer. What does the collective brain trust of Arsenal decide to do? They have Ramsey mark him; a clearly well thought out strategy. Shocking the giant won the header over the Welshmen and they scored. Where are the brains on this team?

Thankfully, interspersed between these cock-ups, we controlled the game and dominated. The interplay was better as was our movement. We hit the post, had a number of good corners – at least Xhaka can take corners – and frequently got behind their defense.

While our defense was not too tested (unless when giving the ball away) Mustafa scored a thunderbolt header and could have had a couple more. They had no answer to him. And then our new pairing of Cigarette and Aubamyang (CigAyang) combined with Ozil to contrast a beautiful goal that got Obang off the mark. And then Cigarette grabbed the three points for us.

So, of my usual pet hates, Mustafa only made one mistake today – he’s usual one per game – in the second half when he got caught on the ball when he tried to chest it under control that lead to yet another breakaway chance for them. His play out the back is much improved – I’ll credit Emery with being a positive influence – but the mental concentration remains an issue. Sokratis was reasonably solid. I still have yet to figure him out. He seems stable if underwhelming and he needs a goalkeeper who can handle the possession game. Both full backs had plenty of opportunity to drive our attack today as Cardiff played so narrow. But neither is getting that much protection in front of them. Ramsey and Obang both left them exposed. Against better teams – which is anyone other team in this league – we won’t be able to be so attacking.

But what to do with Xhaka? Does he have pictures of Emery and a goat? Does Xhaka have Emery’s children locked up in his cellar? What does Xhaka have to do in order to get dropped? If Xhaka was dead, lying in a morgue or buried six foot underground would Emery still select him? If Xhaka lost both arms and legs in a gardening accident would Emery still have him on the bench? While Emery finally got it right today with CigAyang he now needs to solve our midfield. We need to see Guendoza and Torreira alongside each other. We know they are both inexperienced but it’s not clear that Xhaka’s experience is anything other than counter productive. TorrDoza is the future backbone of this team and they need to be given their chance. Now we have a couple of wins under our belt and we’re away from the relegation zone (for the moment) we need to have them play alongside each other. I know Guendoza is new to the game and tires later in the game. But when he’s on the pitch he’s the only one making himself available for the ball, who’s aggressive in the tackle. We need to help him with Torreira. Everytime this kid comes on the pitch we play better. He created the winning goal. He is tidy in possession. He is a fierce tackler. Basically everything that Xhaka is not.

Though we’ve only just started the season we’re already into our first irritating break for Internationals. Hopefully Xhaka can play 180 minutes for the Cheesemen; maybe he’ll pick up an injury. When they all return I fear we’ll still have to wait for Emery to figure out the right starting eleven (i.e. not picking Xhaka). It’s a long season and we’ve barely started. Today we saw a few more green shoots of what this team might evolve into. There was one sublime move in the second half on the right hand side that was all one touch passing that resulted in Bellerin crossing the ball that just eluded Ramsey in the box. At our best we still look like the AW team at it’s best and at our worst our defense still looks like the defense AW created. But it feels like we have a few players who can take us to a better level. They just have to be on the pitch to influence the game. We started with one ½ of the combination we needed – CigAyang but we also need TorrDoza.

So progress today – even if painful at times. We demonstrated that we could recover from (self-inflicted) setbacks; twice. We created chances and we somehow did all this without Ob1 on the pitch. That’s progress.

– LB7

 

 

 

 

August 25th – Arsenal 3 West Ham 1

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First off, how crappy are West Ham? And how much did we struggle? It’s a minor miracle we got all three points. Our defense tried its best to help them out. As did our defensive midfield. Or what would be in a normal team.

Given my own rules of engagement, after only three games in I must refrain from judging Emery for another 7 games. But someone needs to explain to me the logic of the selection policy. How is it even possible to Xhaka to be on the bench let alone starting? And why was Torreira not starting? And how does Ob1 start?

I don’t like to rain on our won parade. Frankly we looked a mess for most of the game. I don’t know whose team this is? It’s not Wengers’ anymore and it does not seem like Emerys. Whereas last week there were signs of progress after an unimpressive first game todays seemed like a definite backward move. It started with the perplexing team selection and then proceeded as we played the type of open, unstructured and unprotected football of the last five years. If we were like this in sexual relations we’d have about 5 children by now. How often did they catch us on the break? And how did they score their first goal when we actually 5 players back?

Against even a half way competent team we would have let in 3 goals all on counter-attacks. A combination of Arnautovic being injured and Hernandez being shit saved us. And it how unfortunately ironic was it that one of their best chances fell to Lucas Perez; you can see now why he’s on the West Ham team. But how can we be so exposed to the break from our own corner – as we were in the second half – when we already have the lead; have we learned nothing? I thought things were supposed to be different now with the new manager. It felt like deja-vu watching our game management. It was awful. And that’s besides the awful players we insist on selecting.

Still the balance of this team looks wrong. Our right hand side seems to be structured as a no-defensive zone. Going forward Bellerin got to the their byline and Mickatarien was creative; they setup our first goal. But when they lose the ball; when we were not in possession, we were incapable of protecting that side of our defense. Bellerin has yet to figure that part of the game out and he’s not helped by Mickatarien who is incapable of tracking back with their players. We will continue to be exposed down our right until either Bellerin is instructed in how to defend or Mickatarien is shifted to another position. And it’s not like the center of defense was any better. Our two center half’s have yet to figure out how to play together. Once Sokratis, inside their half, was pressing so high that he was luckily to foul their player and not expose our entire back line. And then there was that instance in the first half when he paniced and whiffed at the ball inside the 6 yard area. The occasions in the first half when they exposed us on the counter-attack were so numerous. And, of course, it did not help that Xhaka was the defensive cover. Or not.

In the second half we thankfully brought on Cigarette for Ob1; not sure if that was injury related or not but Ob1 was just like last years version – shit. Cigarette made a difference even if it meant Aubameyang had to move out to the wing. We had more energy and better hold up play. I just don’t get why he does not start. It’s a shame Aubameyang missed his one clear chance in the second half; that will damage his confidence further. But I figure this is all good because at some point he will, as a natural goal scorer, come good for us.

Then we brought on Torreira. Finally. But even he played too far up the pitch. But at least he became our defensive cover rather than the vacuum we had. And it pushed Xhaka into a less dangerous part of the pitch. It’s apparent that Torreira is, like Guendoza and Bellerin, not quite ready yet. But I don’t mind persevering with him if that helps he’s growth. It’s not like we’re going to win the league this year. But we have to develop. We have to evolve. Today we regressed. It makes no sense to persist with Xhaka and Ob1; let alone Mustafi. This is Emerys’ chance to implement real change. And I fear that he’s too conservative. I saw no change in how we played today. It was a throwback day. Any against nearly another other team in this league we’d have been beaten. We are too vulnerable in defense and we lack fluency in our passing game. I just don’t see what our game-plan is.

We are fortunate that we have a run of games against less impressive competition. Or teams only marginally worse than us. This gives us more time to find our mojo; to find our identify. Because we lost it this week. I can’t get my head around the lack of defensive discipline. If we play at Cardiff how we used to at Swansea where we’d overcommit and get caught on the break then I will start to despair of Emery. But over the next few games he has to own this team. He has to make the right selection choices. This team needs surgery and I’m not sure he’s the surgeon we need. We have some players that could help. Let’s find out. Playing the same boring and tired failures won’t demonstrate anything other than Emery is a mini-Wenger (without the prior 10 year winning record).

It was pretty depressing watching us today. I’m not at despair yet. There is plenty of time for that. Not being good enough is one thing but not progressing is unacceptable; and today there were worrying signs. The only interesting player I see is Guendoza. He made many mistakes today; he’s passing was off. But at least he played with energy. He was also played higher up the pitch as Xhaka was the defensive cover. Really? That made no sense. But we have to figure out how to have Guendoza and Torreira play alongside each other. It’s a long season though so I suppose patience is warranted.

So, I think we’ve figured out two of the teams that will be relegated – Cardiff and now West Ham. They were awful today; their defense looked about as poor as ours. And, unfortunately, you could see why Jack was on their team not ours. He’s mistake lead to our third goal but overall, aside from the nice short pass he failed to control the game and we expose he’s lack of speed.

As we watch the top 5 or 6 teams though it’s obvious that we’re way off their level. We’re barely in the same league. Today showed this is at least a two year re-build. It’s just remains to see who should be orchestrating this rebuild. Today was the first day I got a bad feeling about that. Emery has the chance to be brave and bold; he has the runway, the goodwill to institute real change and we all know it will take time. He can’t squander that. He needs to make this clearly his team with his tactics and with his personality. Today this team played with the personality of Denilson and the personality of Silverstre.

As an aside, we’ve yet to hear much on the Gazidis switch to Milan. As much as he’s the puppet of our owner Stan it will be interesting to see if he sticks around. For me, if he leaves it will say that he does not own the current structure; he did not choose this manager. That he did really want Arteta.  If he does stays then Emery was his choice. I have not facts to support this, but I think he’ll be off. And he might yet be proven to be right. But we won’t know for at least 7 more games. It’s funny how three points that were so desperately needed can feel so utterly unsatisfying.

-LB7

 

 

 

May 21st – Arsenal Alliteration

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It’s been a week without Arsene. And the passing of time will only make it harder. In the interim it is full on speculation as to who’s the next manager. What criteria should be applied?

It would seem it’s an alphabetic search. Arteta or Allegri. Not very imaginative. No wonder Viera feels like his conversation was perfunctory. He should have changed his name to Aviera. Then he’d be a shoe-in.

After all these months (if not years) of planning, the great and powerful at AFC management have come to the conclusion that Arteta is the best available manager on the planet earth. Aside, that is, from the fact he’s not actually a manager (or coach).

I don’t want Allegri or Enrique. I’d like Nagelsmann or Jardim. But both seem to suffer from having real managerial experience and having names too far down the alphabet.

Not that Arteta can’t be successful. But it’s a very high risk strategy. I hope Arsene is staying close by. I just don’t understand AFCs thinking. They are placing an untried and untested assistant coach in one of the prime seats in Europe. There will be tremendous pressure from the first pre-season game. Arteta could exceed all expectations but is this the right risk to take?

There is no comparable I can think of. Zidane (not to compare us to RM) ran their B- Team (in league 2) for a year. Guardiola ran the Barca B team for a year. Pochatinho ran Espanyol and Southampton. Wenger had 12 years in management from AFC. If you’re going to select Arteta why not start with Ancelotti? He has right at the start of the alphabet and has the experience of the premier league. Have Arteta take a year to get acclimatized – have him run the U23 team. Have him prepare to be a coach.

I fear some of these moves are about the new structure at AFC wanting to control the management of the team. They don’t want to appointment a strong established manager. They don’t want someone who will expect to have control over transfers and player identification. They – Gazidis, Sven and the other one – want to be able to control the coach. Have the coach report in to them. Gazidis has had 10 years of being the puppy dog to Wenger. Now he wants to be the CEO – finally. He looks up the road at Daniel Levy and wants that type of power. He forgets though that until they found Pochettino they had been through 9 managers this century.

It’s not clear this pending appointment is in the best interests of Arsenal. It’s going to be in the best interests of Gazidis. And maybe Sven. And maybe it could work out. But if and when it does not we are fucked. We could become a cross between ManU post Fergie and Sp*rs pre Pochettino.

This decision is obviously critical. We have the basis of a competitive team. But we can’t afford to roll the dice with a new manager who’s completely untested. There has to be a more risk-averse choice out there.

Another thing about poor Arteta. If you appoint him you basically formally by-pass the entire Invincible generation. Why would Bould stay to report to someone ½ he’s age and 1/10th of his experience. What happens to Overmars, Bergkamp, Viera, Bould, Dixon and Henry? They never get a look in. Because if and when Arteta fails then the club will go full on Simeone. That is just ½ a step short of being Darth Vader. We would swing from one extreme of the beautiful game to the other end of the functionary, dull but point accumulating approach of these dreary masters of the game.

The legacy AW left us was one to be cherished and improved upon. It was not to be frittered away on the off chance that a young, intelligent but unproven tactician could take the club to the next level. We needed a considered, incremental, experienced manager who could add that missing piece of steel – or, rather, return the steel that the early Wenger years possessed.

Again, it all makes we worry about the brain-trust at Arsenal. They have surely been planning their moves for the longest time. But here we are two weeks in and we still have no manager. The World Cup starts in 3 weeks – no signings will be made then – and not many even before then. This is valuable time that is being wasted. They should have already made the appointment by now so that the new manager has the maximum time to acclimatize. Unless, of course, that appointment is Arteta.

-LB7

 

 

April 22nd – Arsenal 4 West Ham 1

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Hard to follow on from Friday for many reasons. Not the least is that the emotion of that announcement can’t actually change the ability – or lack of – on this team. The tributes have started – as they should. This is a momentous time in the history of Arsenal. And it helps amplify how influential AW has been. It’s easy to forget that given the onslaught he’s had to withstand lately. This game was a window in the dilemma that AFC have been facing for the past few years. The inconsistency that was shown in the first half versus the domination in the second. The ineptitude of Ob1 versus the ability of Cigarette.

As the era ends for AW so will the time we have to endure Ob1. He will be gone quicker than one of his many misplaced passes. Once he left the field today, to be replaced by Aubameyang the tempo and cohesion of the team picked up. I can’t honestly think of a more frustrating player that I’ve had to watch over the last ten years. Not that I would trade the loss of AW for Ob1 but it does highlight the weaknesses of AW. No other manager would play this guy. No other manager would persevere. And it’s that faith and inflexibility that AW invested in sub-standard players that has ultimately been his downfall.

We have seen this so often this season – that we, in each half, as two different teams. I can’t think of a game this season where we’ve played at our best for the entire game. Though I can think of ones where we’ve been awful through the entire game. Ramsey was strong today – it’s good to have him back. But I worry that when he walks round the pitch after the game it looks like he’s waving goodbye. They need to tie him down to a contract quickly.

In that first half Cigarette hardly touched the ball. It was all too sideways and aimless. But then we increased the tempo in the second half, we looked like a real time and destroyed a weak West Ham team. But come Thursday we’ll have to play a consistently good game. And, most importantly, we’ll have to have a defense and protection for the defense that can insulate us from our vulnerabilities at the back. Regardless of what AW has said, it’s hard to imagine that Mustafi is with us next year. Today we saw his split personality – some timely interceptions, his aggression in winning the talks and then those mistimed passes, the over-commitment that exposes the belly of our defense.

And we saw a classic Wellbeck performance. He works hard and gets into good positions and then will shank the ball or mis headers that should be on target. While he’s clearly superior to OB1 (though I think I am as well) he’s not quite at the level we require – but a reasonable squad player. He had a couple of good attempts on goal from outside the box but he has to take his chances – but, at this stage of his career, I don’t expect any further development in his game.

Bellerin seems to be developing though. Of course, he’s had to suffer Ob1 in front of him. And Xhaka was reasonably solid – as was Elneny. It’s a shame we’ll loose him for a couple of games. He was more creative than Xhaka. But it was clear how much we missed Ozil and MikeyTarrian today. Let’s hope at least one is back for Thursday.

While the second half was enjoyable, and the crowd were very supportive, all the focus was on AW. I really can’t stomach the media focus on what caused him to step down. You have to be retarded to not have figured it out. I suppose that’s the soulless job of the media though to ask painful questions to a man who’s been stripped of his life love as to why he’s resigned when anyone with half a brain cell would know he was pushed. As he should have been. But leave the guy alone. And the pundits seem to feel they have a right to know what happened? No, they don’t and nor do we (well, not yet anyway). But what’s to know? He was pushed out. Can we move beyond that into the celebration of his tenure and the growing focus on who should replace him? It feels like a Parliamentary investigation is going to transpire into who knew what when and who said what when. I suppose they feel the need to fill the airtime with something. But the journalists are also trying to develop some expose on what really happened. Spoiler alert – the man has just been essentially fired from a job he held for 22 years. You can see it on his face, in his body language and in his responses. And it’s also the right thing to have happened.

It’s been a perfect few days and thankfully the team did not ruin it today. Now we have to prepare for both Atlético and also figure out how we can complete the appropriate send off for the best Arsenal manager of all time. And one of the most honest, genuine, intelligent people to have ever held such a high stress, high profile role in any walk of life. He has always been a beacon of intelligence and vision for Arsenal Football Club. Once that statue is unveiled they should also consider naming one of the stands in his honour. And then once he’s had a few years at PSG or Madrid, they should bring him back in some advisory or ambassadorial role. His place is at Arsenal. And Arsenal owe it to him as well.

So, onto Thursday where the conversation will remain dominated by AW. It’s unrealistic to think anything else can occur. But at least today we saw some cohesion in the second half and some hope that we won’t be embarrassed on Thursday. I suspect that might happen when we play the reserve team up at Old Trafford on Sunday. But before then let’s hope Elneny recovers along with Ozil. And that Ob1 does not make the bench.

-LB7

 

 

January 28th – Mid Season Review

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Ok, it’s not technically mid-season. But then this is not technically a review either. But it’s been a while since the last post here. This team is a changing. So, before the transfer window slams it’s door shut there are a number of observations to make.

We are shit. We are a sixth place team. The table does not lie. We play like a sixth place team. We are inconsistent. Our squad is too thin of world-class talent. And it’s now even thinner. The club has the attitude of a sixth place team. It aims low and hits that objective. We carry too many average players. How many players would even make the bench for the teams above us in the league. Do you seriously think Ob1 would make the bench? How about Danny Welbeck? Exactly. Mentally we remain fragile. How else do you explain the away-day results at Stoke, Bournemouth and the draws at West Brom and West Ham?

How did we let go of Sanchez before we lined up a proper replacement? Why have we not sign Aubameyang? We all knew at the end of the last transfer window that we had to off load Alexis before he left for free. We tried to unload him at the last minute at the end of that window and failed miserably. Where was the plan? Look how Liverpool traded Coutihno away within a few days and brought in Van Dyke? We lost Alexis for a couple of games (Bournemouth and CP) before off-loading him – why could that not have been done right at the start of the window. Sure, I know there were other teams involved. But that does not explain the lack of movement with Aubameyang.

This one is not on AW. He has been the lightning rod for our lack of movement in prior windows. When we’ve failed to land people others have projected on AW their frustrations. Through their psychic powers people were able to look into the mid of AW and blame him for being miserly with the clubs money – refusing to either pay the fee or the wages. But, just maybe, we’re seeing the real AFC here. Just maybe, it was not AW that, in the past, screwed up transfer negotiations. Remember Suarez and the £40 + 1 penny bid and that fiasco?

This one is not on AW. This one is on Gazidis. He is the one that, visibly, got on the plan to fly to Nazi-land. He’s the one who has not been able to close the deal. If we fail to land him the blame lays there. It’s not on AW nor on Dortmund. Dortmund have been quite clear what they require to close the deal. Money. We are left with three days to the end of the window and little space in which to navigate. I naively assume that this deal will get completed. Boomerang is getting booed by his own fans and we have the money and they need it. But if we fail to bring him in and supporters see other moves – heavens above if Liverpool swoop in for Lemar or Mahrez – the mood till the end of the season will be nasty.

So where is our planning, our strategy and why does everything feel like Groundhog day. We have money from Gabriel, Theo and our Cock. But we won’t get the player we seem to want. I’m not sure he’s the solution to our problems. But if the club feel he is then they should sign him.

This, of course, is one of the primary reason why Alexis wanted to leave. He did not see the ambition of the club. He did not see the desire to surround him with world-class players. Now he’s gone to Manu to play alongside such talented players as Fellaini and Herrera. Good luck mate. But, how would you feel looking around the dressing room at Arsenal and seeing some of our muppets. I understand why he only passed to Ozil. Consider how Alexis stagnated and became more selfish in his play. He had no faith in the other players. I’m not saying this was right on his part but it’s understandable. He wants to play with the best and win titles. Why would Arsenal sign him and then fail to continue to build around him.

Ironically, because of the way Alexis play degenerated into less scoring and more ball hogging, since he’s not been playing for us, our play has improved. Aside from Xhaka and Ramsey, players spend less time on the ball. There is more one touch, quick movement and speed to our play now. We are more threatening on the break and more dynamic going forward. That’s not to say I won’t be pained to see Alexis succeed at ManU; he will make them a better team. He will run his socks off and he will score goals for them. It’s going to be tough to watch. But we brought this on ourselves. We should, in fact, consider ourselves lucky to have gotten anything out of Alexis. Ironically, if we had been just a little better this year he might have stuck around till the end of the season when we would have gotten zilch. However we end up MickeyTaReAnd. Not a bad player at all. Someone who can relegate Ob1 to the bench (and beyond). But we should have managed this such that he ended up at ManCity.

We have two other players coming to the end of their contracts. So, first off – how do we let this happen? How negligent can one club be? It’s hard to imagine an analogous situation. I get reminders from my phone company to pay bills otherwise I lose service. I get threats from the bank to pay the mortgage otherwise I lose our house. I know this because it happens with regularity. So how do Arsenal allow these situations to develop? God only knows.

At least though we have one remaining world class player. Ozil has been majestic this season. The shining light in a cave of doom and gloom. He has been the one player that has been able to elevate the team to a level of play worthy of the history of this club. Forget all the bleating from fans about how lightweight and inconsistent Ozil is. All that moaning about he does not turn up for the big games. Finally, this season, even the doubters realize that this is the remaining jewel from our crown that has been stolen.

So what are the odds that Ozil is an Arsenal player next season. How do we let his contract run out? How much will it cost to replace him? Unless the plan is to play Ob1 in that position. Or maybe MikeyTaReAnd. But when Ozil looks around the changing room what must he also think? At least there are a few fellow Nazi’s to keep him company. At least he can practice his Nazi salutes and goose-stepping routines with his fellow comrades. But aside from that he must despair. And If we don’t bring in Boomerang it will certainly play into his thinking.

Whereas with Alexis the case could be made that his style was antithetical to our pattern of player with Ozil he is pivotal to it. He is the central figure in our team. In many ways he’s more important to us than Fabregas was or even Dennis. Because they at least had other world-class players around them. If we can’t keep Ozil why would any other world-class players consider Arsenal? Who, by then, would be an 8th place team. We would morph into the Everton of the Premier League.

Aside from all this, when are we going to hear any noises about signing a proper, grown-up, adult defensive midfield player? We sold our own Coq and have not considered replacing him? How is that? How do you cut off your Coq and not consider a replacement part? We have been neutered.

We can’t seriously think Elneny is that player. Clearly Xhaka is not. And it’s unfair to even think of Matiland-Niles. So, what are our options here? Rather than just focus on another forward this is the area that requires immediate attention.

interestingly, even though I’m now of the view that AW’s time is drawing to a close – and he could be gone in the summer – little has been made of his tactics. In prior years the claim was that there was no plan B and that our tactics were too rigid. Yet, even in our despair of Bournemouth, we are demonstrating flexible formations and systems. Against Chelski, after suffering for the first 20 minutes, we made formational changes that altered the outcome of the game. While the players might be abject, the tactics and the manager  – in this respect – have not.

The problem is that as the face of Arsenal AW is the lightening rod for all our problems. He is responsible for many of them but not all of them. We need a structure in place for when he does depart. Signing the head of recruiting, a contract person and other football literate people is key – though if the negotiations with Dortmund are anything to go by it’s not clear this is an improvement. We need football leadership at this club and we don’t have it. We have Wenger and when he’s gone we will pine for the days when he controlled everything. Better him than Gazidis.

Finally, broadening out to the other teams you have to laugh at Liverpool and Sp*rs . both seem to be morphing into the Arsenal of 2007+. Watching Liverpool demolish ManCity and then being felled by mighty Swansea reminded me of our inconsistency. Being so dominant going forward and so vulnerable in defense reminded me our the last 10 years of Arsenal. Maybe it all started when we bequeathed them Kolo. Just maybe he introduced a virus into their defense from which they’ve yet to recover.

As for Sp*rs, they also seem to have master the art of throwing away points. With the talent they have on the pitch aligned with their manager, they really should be way more than 3 points above us. In fact, both of these teams have flattered to deceive. With all our mishaps and cock-ups it’s remarkable that we’re only a few points behind. Of course, it will only take a few injuries and/or usually inept performances to rectify that. Both these teams are way better than us. How damming is that statement.

Remember we are a sixth place team for a reason (actually many reasons) – the table does not lie.

OK, for the moment, therapy over.

-LB7

December 16th – Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0

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And on the eighth day the Lord created Newcastle United.  A gift to the world. Based on the arse end of the earth frequented by drole northerners and inhabited by the most ardent fans. But destined to be represented by the most average, bland and unforgettable eleven players you’ll ever see. Doubt me? Ok, let’s see if you, dear reader, can name even 4 players on their team? OK, too hard. Try two. Too hard? Thankfully they were our Christmas present today. And boy did we need one.

Today was a game where the points were paramount. We got them. But nothing else. Aside, that is, from the predictability of the performance. And the predictability of my observations. As and when AI is available I’ll be able to use that to write my reviews. Save me the trouble of finding new ways to say the same thing.

There was a different look to the formation today. Expecting a parked bus we were able to include a more offensive mid-field. And offensive it was. I was offended by Xhaka and, unfortunately, even by Jack. But mostly Xhaka. He continues to make careless passes in dangerous areas. Suffice it to say, after 1+ years of watching him,  I don’t get him. If I was going into battle I would hope he was the guy I was fighting.  For Jack, I’d been expecting more. He played higher up the pitch today and was hardly involved. And when he dropped back he demonstrated that he’d been carefully watching Xhaka by – late in the second half – giving the ball away on the edge of our box.

And as for Bellerin. WTF. He had little defensive duties but he’s so one dimensional it begs belief. And I see little if any progression in his game. He is our own Spanish Theo. All speed and no technical skills nor tactical acumen. Too often he’s faced with opportunities near the opposition goal and he does not know what to do. Sure, he was involved in our goal but even a broken clock is right twice a day. Like Xhaka he makes too many stray, careless passes. And he also prefers to play the ball sideways or backwards. He won’t use he’s speed to attack the opposition. On too many breakways he makes the wrong runs and the wrong decisions. And nothing seems to change. There is now growth, no development, no evolution. I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing in another 3 years. Though hopefully by then his Barca-DNA will force them to acquire him for £35m. Because it’s not like we have anyone else challenging him for that role.

However, on the left we had Maitland-Niles. He was a bright light in the dour coal-minds of this game. Technical, fast and football aware. A player with a football IQ. It’s a miracle. Maybe we can try him on the right hand-side. Against real opposition you might not want him on the pitch but he shows progress and development. Maybe he can be our savior.

Because last years savior is a shadow of his former self. I’m desperate for the January window to open so we can take him down to Waitrose or Sainsbury’s or even Tesco’s and exchange him for a Christmas tree and three glasses of muld-wine. The only positive thing was that he finally got substituted before the end. Alexis is now an impediment to this team. He will score goals at some point (and maybe not for us) but currently he over elaborates, takes too many touches and is way too predictable in his movements. He slows the game down and exposes our defense by going backwards when the teams’ momentum is forward. In another 10 days he could be gone. In the meantime, he should be on the bench. We should have Giroud and Cigarette up front. Not that Cigarette was on form today. But with Jack in the #10 spot he received little service again. But he also screwed up his chip on the goalie. I like this boy (not in that sort of way, of course) but we need to just let him play the full 90 minutes.

The defense was hardly tested today but we saw Monreal return to his usual solid performance whereas Kosclieny still looks like he’s a game away from being out with an Achilles problem.

We won 1-0, we got three points. But this was basically due to one man and one man only. Ozil ruled this game. He ran our team and dominated the game. He was the only player out there that was pure class. If Alexis wants to leave to be able to play with world class players, when Ozil looks around he can only wish he had that supporting cast – and that includes Alexis. Today Ozil was masterful. And he’s goal was sweet perfection. He read that entire move and drop back in anticipation of the ball being cleared to him and then, demonstrating perfect technique buried it in the next. If only Alexis would take note. Based on the last three months if we only have to sign one of these two, as I’ve said before, grab as much money as you can for Alexis and invest in Ozil. He is our creative spark. He is our creator-in-chief. Alexis is energetic, passionate and talented. But he’s also flawed. And we’re seeing those flaws. An ideal place for him would be Man City. They have tons of money and he could not do much damage to us there. It’s not like they haven’t already won the league. It’s not like they are not already going to beat us in our next encounter. It’s not like him going there will tip the scales in their favour. So, let’s take their money. And then invest in a Khaka replacement. And let’s play Giroud up front with Ciagrette.

I appreciate that Wenger mixed up the formation today and the selection. He knows it’s not working. For all our famed creativity, we are struggling to score goals. That’s two goals in the last four games. Somehow, somewhere we have to find that right balance. It just feels a long way away. We are now entirely dependent on Ozil for our spark. Jack is missing fitness and touch. Xhaka is too bland. And Alexis is too disruptive. You know Alexis is off his game when Ob1 looks like a bigger threat.

Next up – ignoring the mid-week encounter between our reserve team in the League/Milk/Corobo/WhatsItCalled Cup – on Friday has us playing against the mighty Ox. Will he come back to haunt us as he snuggly sits on the bench? Can we possibly play as bad as we did at Anfield? Wenger will be conscious that this is a big game and that we’ll need more defensive stability. Newcastle barely troubled us. But Liverpool are an entirely different proposition. If Mustafi is fit we can resume our normal Nazi contingent and revert to a back three. Wenger might go all DarthVader on us and try parking the bus. But there won’t be a place for Jack and I suspect Kolinsac will be back – BTW, where is he?

Your humble write will be traveling over this period so normal service might be disrupted. I know this might sour many peoples Christmas period. For this I can only apologize. I realize how pivotal this website can become to the lives of so many people. How we have brought food to the hungry. How we have brought joy to the downtrodden. But, fuck it. I need a holiday. I can’t deal with watching the dross we saw today. I might even write the Liverpool review tomorrow where I bemoan our early defensive lapses and then struggle to get back into the game only to be hit on the counter-attack as we overcommit with 5 center-forwards on the pitch.

-LB7

December 10th – Southampton 1 Arsenal 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– LB7

 

December 2nd – Arsenal 1 Manchester United 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, we always have Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 0

-LB7

 

Nov 26th – Burnley 0 Arsenal 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 25th – Arsenal 2 WBA 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7