September 1st – Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 2

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The glass is half full. But was very close to being empty. Thank you Cigarette and Aubameyang. Thank you Pepe and thank you Ceballos. Now fuck off Xhaka. And please remember to foul yourself on the way out.

This was better than last week. It had to be. We should have won the game but were, in some way, lucky to come away with a point. Illogical but true. As good as we started the game our balance was not right. And then we made stupid mistakes. First Sokratis and then our glorious captain. It was said in commentary that if you built a condensed highlight reel for Xhaka it could comprise that tackle on Son in the box. Reckless and unnecessary. We’ve seen this so often. Unfortunately, this confirms what we’ve always known – he’s not capable of changing. He does not learn. On so many occasions he was out of position, slow and gave away unnecessary fouls in dangerous positions. Yet, there were a number of great passes he made and link-up play. So, me thinks, the issue here is that we continue to play him in the wrong position. He’s not a defensive midfield player. I think we’ve determined that after watching him for nearly 4 years.

So, if last week was on Emery’s tactics – the infamous diamond – this week it was on his selection. His tactics were right but he chose the wrong people. He should have put Torreira at the base of the midfield rather than Xhaka. He should have started Ceballos. But none of that would have protected us from Soikratis trying to emulate Mustafa. Who knows why he felt the need to challenge for the ball on the half way line when Xhaka had already point out his need to mark his own man. That exposed our frail defense. And then the mistakes compounded themselves. Sokratis did not track back and Leno decided to bobble the ball into the path of Erickson. We’d dominated the opening period but had somehow found away to give up a goal.

Every time they broke on the counter-attack we were vulnerable. There was no midfield defensive cover. Xhaka can’t recover with his lack of speed and Torreira was too far out of the game on the right. Luckily, we have our front three who continued to threaten. Unluckily we also have Xhaka jumping into kamikaze tackles in the penalty box. This is an experienced international and captain. Does Mustafa tutor him during training sessions? It’s insane. And predictable. How many penalties has he conceded? Inbetween that, Leno made up for his amateur fumble with their first goal with a great save from Son. We have all that possession, but they had the chances.

Then finally, we started to create more chances. Guendouzi dominated the midfield and Aubameyang was dominating Sanchez. Kolinsac was not tested defensively but had so many openings on the left. He squandered most of them and failed to provide the right final ball. And often he was unwilling to take the space offered in front of him. But thankfully our front three continued to push. Pepe looks like the real deal. He’s got super quick feet and balance. He had a couple of chances, but we needed the excellence of Cigarette to receive an intelligent pass from Pepe to dance round Vertonghen and burst their net. That goal changed the game.

In the second half we finally dominated and had a better balance. Sp*rs were on the back foot. We created chances and missed most of them. The front three were linking up well and Sp*rs faded. But we could not score. Until Guendouzi played a sublimie ball behind their defense for a classic Aubameyang goal. By then we’d introduced the wonderful Ceballos. He was back to his Burnley best. Everything he touched was beautiful. He, along with Guendouzi, ran the game. Unfortunately, we had also brought on the useless Mickeytarrien. Between him and Kolinsac on the left we wasted so many chances and generally damaged any momentum we created. The two of them and Xhaka are the three clear deficiencies in this team. But how good is Ceballos? So much talent and energy. If only we could put Torreira in the base of the midfield with Guendouzi. It comes back to selection over tactics this week. When we get this right we’ll be fine.

In truth we should have won given the dominance of the second half. It was good to see the character and recovery of the team. Though if you can’t get motivated for a NLD then you really do have problems. So I’ll take a point I suppose. I just want us to learn some lessons. And it’s all about our midfield balance. We need Ceballos in the team and we have to replace both Xhaka and Kolinsac. But this will take time. We need Tierney to regain fitness. And we need Emery to trust either Torreira or Willock. Again, it’s not entirely fair to blame Xhaka when we play him out of position. But bonehead tackles are his responsibility.

Again, today just confirmed what we know. Our success is all about Emery. We have the goal scorers. We have the talent. It’s now down to him and how he chooses to harness it. I don’t expect us to challenge for the title but I do expect him to sort out the right balance of tactics and selection. We have to evolve to the point where we don’t have to bring on Mickeytarrien – he has to learn to trust Nelson or others. They will be our future. He has to solve this midfield issue. Maybe it will depend on reverting to a back three and then having two defensive players. But on the counter-attack today we could have leaked many more goals. It’s finding that balance. The balance that has eluded Arsenal for the last five years. Our attack continues to develop and improve. We now have one of the top three forward lines in the country. Pepe will surely score 10+ goals this year. Aubameyang and Cigarette continue to dominate our goal scoring. Guendouzi shines brightly – today he was the best midfield player on the pitch. It’s sorting out the final couple of selections that will dictate how far Emery can take this team. The squad (until the regular injuries start to accumulate) is now there and are now at his disposal.

A word on David Luiz. I was fine with him today. He was reasonably solid and cautious. He took no unnecessary risks. He was out of position once or twice. But generally we benefitted from his presence today. As irresponsible as he was last week, he was more dependable than Sokratis and Xhaka were today. Given time, DL will prove to be a good addition.  

We are getting closer to figuring this out but it will take a little longer yet. And it will depend on how astute Emery is. Can we find the right make-up for our midfield. Otherwise it’s going to be a case of whether our front three can score enough goals to compensate for our unstable defense.

Now we’ll have to suffer through our first boring International break. Just as the season started to develop some momentum. Every year I say the same thing. I hate FIFA and I hate the NCAA. But FIFA more. Why we have to deal with these stupid breaks is beyond me. Just wait until the Qatar WC rolls round and trashes an entire season. In the meantime I think there are a couple more annoying breaks to come along before the end of the year. So no meaningful football for 2 weeks. At least the ashes will provide some diversion. And let’s hope we don’t pick up injuries and that Holding and Tierney can regain some fitness – along with Bellerin.

A final word on Nacho. Good-bye.

He was a great addition (again, funny that. AW could not recruit defenders so they say). He came as back up for Gibbs and ending up seeing him transferred off to a Championship team. Monreal could play left-back or center half. He gave us some excellent years; was part of our F.A Cup runs and was always reliable and steady. We’ll miss him. We should have retained him for todays game. And it’s a crime that we barely got £250K for him (to be paid in installments). We could trust Nacho which is more than you can say for Kolinsac. But he deserves to be retired out to Spain. Let’s hope we don’t miss him too much.


August 24th – Liverpool 3 Arsenal 1

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This one is on Emery. Wrong shape. Wrong tactics.  Not the ideal way to start the first review of the season. Not wishing to jinx the 100% start by introducing a review it’s time to revert to normality. As, of course, did Arsenal.

In truth we had chances in the first half. But we set back and attempted to resolutely defend. But we ceded the momentum and pitch to them. If the tactics were to hit them on the counterattack it did not work. Every time we had the ball we spent more time meticulously picking intricate passes in our own third. I can’t think of a single time when Leno punted the ball up field. I appreciate the dedication to possession football. But you have to do something with that possession. And when it breaks down in your own 1/3rd then you’re at risk. So, we were so slow in our build up that we rarely got to use the speed we had up front. In fact, there was very little link up play. The balance of the team seemed wrong. Willock out on the left was not involved that much. And after the Burnley hype Ceballos was barely in the game. After playing against the thugs of Burnley and shining brightly as effortlessly talented, today with their extra pace, quality and speed of closing down he found it impossible to get into the game and have any influence. So, there was no possession in the middle of the pitch. Guendouzi was too far infield; their left side was completely vacant. Robertson had the freedom to roam all day long. The plan seemed to be to crowd the center of the pitch and force them wide. That’s counterintuitive given the strength of their full backs.

We held out for 40 minutes which by our Anfield standards is a record. Their goal was coming but rather than from a wingback cross it was a corner. Then comes half-time. Time for a change in tactics. But Emery decided to stick rather than twist. Then Luiz looks to emulate the great Mustafa with the stupid penalty trick. And then gets beaten by Salah overcommitting on the half way line. So why am I not in a nuclear meltdown? If it had been Mustafa I surely would be. Because it’s not Mustafa. We’ve seen Luiz for too many years. We know he has mistakes in him. But with him in our defense we are a better team. We did not lose the game because of him. Given the amount the defenses had to absorb it’s unsurprising we conceded goals. The issue is more why we were in that position in the first place.

By the time the game was already lost we finally dumped the failed diamond and reverted to a regular 4-4-2. Sure, we scored but we also had some possession; though by then Liverpool were already in training mode. But at least we had Cigarette on the pitch. And Torreira. Even when Mickeytarrien came on he played quite well. Ceballos should have been removed sooner. And pushing Willock to the #10 was not the right move either.

Interestingly without Ob1 and Mustafa there are not too many players to pick on. But at least we still have, for that purpose, Xhaka. He was his ever slow and ponderous self. As the captain he should be taking responsibility when either side of him are 20 year old. Guendouzi was clearly outmanned on the left and Willock is not left-sided. And, well, Ceballos was over matched. But, really, it’s a stretch to identify too many players who you could blame for this defeat. Pepe looks like a star in the making. Aubameyang had a few chances but was isolated for too long. Generally, I thought the back four worked hard. Sokratis was excellent (apart from the Matip header). And Leno was fine.

So that leads us back to the manager. Why did he take so long to adjust to what was clearly visible to even a blind man. You could make the argument that until the corner on the 40th minute it had been working. We’d stifled Liverpool. But as soon as they scored and after half-time we continued on the same path. Why? Was he so scared of a mauling that we played so conservatively that we got mauled? Did this feel like another Baku performance? No, not really, there were too many good things from us. Maybe I’m delusional. I never had expectations that we’d beat Liverpool at Anfield. We’re not good enough. We’re better than last year. This squad is better. We do have better players. But we’re just not good enough. Yet. We need time. Another transfer window or two. And, just maybe, another manager. It’s a harsh assessment. But todays is not the day to blame the players. That’s on the mentality and tactics. After absorbing the first 10 minutes or so, we looked like a decent team except that we were outmanned in midfield. And remained so until the 80th minute.

Patience is the watchword for this season. Last season it was development. Now we have to assess, with this improved squad, whether Emery can get the best out of them. Can he decide on the right balance and tactics. Can he learn and adapt? I hope so. He has shown some signs of learning from his mistakes. Example #1 being Mustafa. But will he learn from todays performance? When we next play away against one of our (supposed) rivals will he set us up the same way? Is our defense better? It’s possible there is an improvement. There was better coverage in front of them except we gave up the wings and put ourselves under a lot of pressure. So, I can’t tell whether that’s really on the players or the manager? I think Luiz and Sokratis were pretty effective so that leads me back to Emery.

Aside from the score line, I thought we were better today than we’ve been in previous seasons at Anfield. There is a clear change in style being imposed. I think it’s misplaced and used at the wrong time. But I’ll generously put that down to it being the early stages of the reign of Emery. When it works, as it does against weaker teams that don’t press as well, it can be wonderful to watch. But to consistently try this at Anfield is optimism gone mad. Find that balance you need to counter-attack with your available speed. It would be like having Theo on the team and asking him to play intricate, skillful one touch passing in our own half. Oh, hold on, we did use to do that.

Anyway, I never thought we come away with a point from this game. But I want to see evolution of this team. This transfer window demonstrated we’re re-building to peak in another year or two. But we’re also entitled to expect better performances given the available talent that we have.

I’m not too upset nor despondent. I see green shoots sprouting up. But next week will be entirely different. That game won’t be about the future but about the here and now. We can expect to see Cigarette back in the team.  And I’d like to see Torreira rather than Xhaka but I know that’s too much to wish for.


August 8th – OB Gone

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Goodbye then old friend. You’ll be missed. Just not by me. We’ll always have Mustafa.

But now I can look for that day when the squad is finally cleaned out. If I could have made any wishes for this transfer window they would surely have been exceed by todays glorious activity. Nearly £40m for OB1? That’s more than England will gain for Brexit. That’s more than Boris is worth. That’s more than OB1 is worth. Money in the bank for us and a partner to play ball with Theo. We’ve finally found a bank for Arsenal.

To be fair (which I hate), OB1 improved last year. And he scored a scream in Baku; what a parting goal. He’s young; he’s talented; he’s skillful. And he’s gone! Maybe he’ll blossom at Everton. There’s a risk when selling someone so young. They have time to develop and grow. But we get the money now. And, hopefully, it paves the way for grabbing Zaha in January. Poor old Zaha must be so so upset to be stranded at Concrete Palace with old man Hodgson.

This window turned out to be so much better than expected. All that bleating by Arsenal blogs and fans that believed the limitation on our ability to spend money. They believed their own rumors and have been made to look foolish. They forgot rule #1 – don’t believe anything you read (apart, of course, from what you read here).

Would I have taken this outcome as I walked (and cried) out of that stadium in June? Hell yes. The start of a reconfiguration that can position us to reclaim our rightful place (in fourth or third). It’s as much as we could have hoped for. Rome was not built in a day. We started to trim our squad while promoting youth. We liberated the hand-tied Bould and put the engaging Freddie on the bench. That was a double-win. It also applies a smidge of pressure on OneEye. And we finally added a Director of Football – BTW, what does that mean? Someone to direct the football where to go? So Edu is back. It’s good to see Arsenal still believe in hiring people with sufficient vowels. Managers can’t apply with only two vowels and director of football must have at least 2/3rd vowels. Anyway, this was a good move – to have someone else with some sense of AFC. A little bit of continuity. And I believe Pires is still around as some sort of ambassador as well. Plus, of course, the BFG. Let’s just hope we don’t become like Sp*rs when they hired Sherringham, Ferdinand and the talented Sherwood. Old boys aren’t sufficient; talent is.

So we finally waved a sad goodbye to Carl. A little surprising given the lack of cover at right-back. But it’s better for him and a recognition that passion and hard work needs to be supplemented with a touch of ability. We will miss his heart. Momentarily he was our longest serving squad member.

It’s hard to know what to make of Kosclieny apart from the fact he’s now a resident of Bordeaux. That was a very Persie-eque departure. There’s something unhealthy about being an Arsenal captain and leaving the club. After nine-years it’s a sad way to end it all. When he arrived he was a no-name French league 2 player. For the usual Wenger haters it fit their narrative that he can’t recruit or develop defensive players. Remember, in case you’ve forgotten, we’ve been told he inherited the entire backline from George Graham. Kosclieny put the lie to that statement (aside from Campbell, Lauren, Cole, BFG etc). He developed into our best performer and most reliable defender. And last year he recovered from a debilitating injury and had to quickly return to play alongside Mustafa.

But somehow, just when we’re looking to bolster the center of our defense, Koz walks off. Why? I know it does not matter now but I would bet it’s related to prior promises made to him. He only had a year left. He’ll be 34 soon and has a history of injuries. He’s not paid a tremendous amount. But, in the prior regime of that wanker Gazidis you can be sure promises and representations were made that made Koz believe he’d be “rewarded” with an easy exit should the opportunity arise. Why else would this situation escalate out of control? And why could Gazidis not make these same representations to Mustafa. Why can’t he bring him over to Milan? What a wonderful combination they would make.

But somehow we managed to pick up a new center half and then send him straight back to St. Etienne. I’m fine with that. We need a year or two to re-build this team. Getting him, at this price, next year is fine by me. This gives us a roadmap for the future. But on this last day we finally bring in the Scottish Hernia – Tierney. Only Arsenal could wait till the last minute to sign an already injured defender. But, if and when he’s fit, he definitely addresses one of our defensive weaknesses. And it also shuts up that tosser Neil Lennon. Having to hear him bleat about the bidding process is nearly as tedious as listening to Hodgson. BTW, I hope you liked the nice way we sold Thompson to Brentford (for £1m) so Brentford could sell their left-back to Celtic. Love the symmetry. I’m sure we’ll buy Thompson back in another few years.

And then we come to David Luiz. Who knew? First it was Gallas; then Cech and how Luiz. I’d always seen him as a bit of a prima-dona; talented but prone to mistakes. That’s an upgrade on what we have though. Mustafa has no talent and is full of predictable mistakes. Luiz can also play holding midfield if needed. And all for the price of 2.5x Carl. Or, the cost of Carl + Koz. Again, not so bad. Luiz will fill the slot nicely until we get Saliba back. By which time we’ll still have Sokratis and Holding will have proven to be worthy of playing center-half or will be searching for another player.

And, we still have time, before the window closes in Europe, to sell Mustafa to some desperate, ill-informed Spanish, Italian or Turkish team. We don’t need much. A couple of sandwiches and a newspaper should about get him out of the front door. Imagine, if you will, a defense without Mustafa? Imagine the disappointment at Wolves, Concrete Palace and Brighton when they realize that Meat-head has departed. Luiz will undoubtedly make monumental mistakes. But he can’t possible be worse. We just need him for these transition years.

And then we have loaned Ceballos in order to light a fire under Ozil. And we have Pepe. That’s not a bad outcome. I don’t know too much about either. But if they can keep OB1 and Mickeytarrien out of the frame then that’s a step in the right direction. This was a good window for us. None of the last minute buying that brought in Arteta and the BFG along with other panic buys. But, even though the blogs were moaning and whining, we did leave it late and it seems like we had a strategy. And it looks like it played out pretty well. I still wanted Zaha because of his EPL experience. But there’s always January. And he’ll be sulking until then anyway.

Now all we need to do is sell Elneny and Mustafa and bring in a little more cash. That will make this a way above average window for us.

This window also makes this clearly Emery’s team now. There is very little of the AW era left. But Emery still needs another window in order to get a defensive midfield player and another center-half. Going forward we will be devastating and in defense we will remain porous and unsteady. But we will be making progress. Having Edu helps. You have to imagine he was behind the Luiz move – all that Portuguese chit-chat. It hurts Chelski and helps us. He can’t be as a big a baby as Gallas and this is a better deal than losing Cole.

Will we finish in the top 4? I doubt it. Remember we still have Xhaka as our likely captain. Enough said. To an extent it will depend on how Chelski survive without Hazard and with Lampard. And then there’s ManU. Pogba does not want to be there. And I see little leadership in that team. If Ole starts with a string of losses they will hit the panic button yet again. But we should keep our eye out for both Wolves and Everton. But hopefully OB1 and Theo can help us out. At the top I actually believe that this year it will be Liverpool you end up on top. It’s very hard to repeat and to three-peat has only been done once. And they lost Kompany who was a true leader. And Delph. Fernandinho is 35 now. Liverpool have a groove now and the desire. And Klopp is the man. So, this year, it could be Liverpool for the EPL and Man City for the Champions League – and then it’s good-bye Pepe.

So in one sense, this year is yet another chance for us to sneak into 4th place. But I still don’t think we’ve fully reconfigured our team. However, after today and after a couple of weeks of adaptation, we have a better squad than we did last year. And we only missed out by point because of the end of year spineless performances. So, we have an opportunity. Now we can just wait for someone to take Mustafa off our hands and it will have been a perfect summer. Bring on the new season

– LB7

June 2nd – Back from Baku

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Baku is to be highly recommended. Just not to watch Arsenal. As surprisingly impressive as Azerbaijan was Arsenal managed to surpass our worst case performance. On the positive side, Baku has both electricity and edible food. Their downtown is a cross between Dubai glass buildings and Madrid-like boulevards. Just goes to show what a copious supply of oil and gas can fund. On the negative side you had a stadium 65% full stuffed with locals that had no allegiance, a pitch separated by an Olympic track, security guards both ringing the pitch (to stop any porn stars intervening) along with security guards standing between each block of fans blocking the view of anyone near them. Then we had the moronic UEFA entertainment by some random clique 1990’s DJ. And those were the highlights. This set the tone for a very subdued atmosphere. There were, maybe, 5,000 fans in the stadium that actually cared about the outcome. As others have noted, from the get-go it seemed more like a pre-season friendly. There’s more passion and chanting in a Community Shield August match than for this one.  

Our team selection was as expected. As unhappy as I was to not see Leno play this loss can’t be pinned on Cech. Without him it could have been a lot worse. And, worse than that, I can’t even pin this one on Mustafa.

The first half threw up a few chances for us. Aubameyang had an important chance early on but shanked it wide. Cigarette might have been awarded a penalty. Overall, we were ok but there was no smoothness to our play; they was no link up play. It was clear though that whenever Hazard received the ball our midfield and defense went into an apoplectic fit. Somehow, we’d forgotten how to play against him. Torreira tried to pick him up and Ozil was clearly tried to shadow him. How we missed Ramsey. He would have been able to maintain the required work-rate and strength. To be fair Hazard was the one world-class player on the field and he played like it.

At half-time, the discussion was that this might be a 1-0 game and that it was reasonably well balanced. No-one could have seen that second half coming. But right from the second half whistle Chelski were more aggressive and we decided to be anonymous.  In fact, we defined anonymous. We’ve seen this through out the season but usually it’s the first half where we did not turn up. This time we decided to end our season with this most limp, passion-less performance. Their first goal was Classic Giroud. A perfect header. I remember in the first half thinking that we were lucky he was not playing for us because he’s too slow for our style of play. While that remains true he also showed why he’s still picked for France and for that style of play. It makes you wonder what might have been if, when we signed Cigarette and had the two of them play alongside each other. Whilst we at it, if we had taken back Fabregas as opposed to Ozil. Anyway, there’s time for revisionism later.

It’s hard to describe the way we disintegrated after their first goal. It was a stunning as it was all too familiar. We are truly schizophrenic. We are simultaneously a team of two half’s. Pun intended.  And this second half was one in which we utterly disappeared. The defensive cover disappeared along with our defense. And we continued to struggle to link up any creative movement. And the few opportunities we had both Aubameyang and Cigarette chose this game to completely shank everything. This, as noted in the prior post, was about big game players. And both our premier goal scorers truly sucked. As dominant as they both were against Valencia, they were appalling in the final. If they had played like this in Spain, there’s no way I would have been walking the streets of some wealthy, modern pseudo Middle-Eastern come Western city at 2am in the morning looking for yet more lamb and chicken saj to eat.

If someone had said before the game that these two forwards would have a hard time tie-ing their own shoe-laces then no-one would have expected that we would win the game. Without either of these two we are a very average team and we proved it again. Sure, Ozil was pretty irrelevant but he’s no longer a match winner for us; he’s just a lightening road because of his wages.

I need to re-watch the second half to understand what happened. I remember that they scored more than us. And I also remember that they grew into that second half and found their game as we continued to wilt. But tactically it was not clear how this happened – aside from Hazard terrorizing us.

To watch this game live was as deflating as any match I’ve seen. Except that is for the memorable loss to Birmingham in the League Cup Final. That is still the low bar for me. Even against Barcelona we could feel cheated by the Lehman sending off and the fact the team actually played – and if it were not for Henry we would have won that. But this performance was dire. It was listless and lacking in any imagination. The only interesting move was the outstanding goal from Ob1 (another classic substitute performance from him btw) and then the chances that Willock created in his little cameo. What a statement though by Emery. A big a fuck-you to Ozil that you could hope for. He could have brought on Badbeck to grab another goal but chose instead to start planning for next year by benching Ozil. I remain an admirer of Ozil but I now concede that he has to go. The manager, who was ambivalent towards him most of the season, has clearly decided that enough is enough. Fine, then let’s move on. Because this was a game when Ozil should have stepped forward (as opposed to backwards).

It’s hard to describe the utter deflation of both seeing those goals go in and also watching the lack of response from the team. Realizing that you’ve come all that way to watch a team disintegrate. Having believed – foolishly – that the last 5 games of the regular season were not the reality of this team and that Valencia was the false dawn. Standing there, in this modern but soul-less stadium surrounded by stunned Arsenal fans all asking the same thing. What the fuck has happened to this team – to this club. Around us the Arsenal fans that made the expensive and arduous trip from London did not even wait until the 80th minute to start leaving. Imagine coming all that way and leaving early! There was utter frustration and despair. It’s not like Chelski were so dominant. It was more that we just had no game. Only when we brought on Ob1 and Willock did we inject some pace into our attack. And even then we, of course, handed them back a goal as soon as we scored one. How ridiculous is our defensive play? How is this aspect of our game any better than in previous years. Where’s the progress and development?

So it turns our Azerbajian really is better than Arsenal. The people were very laid back and friendly. Aside from the distance, it really could be a European city. It stays open late; there are a ton of clubs, the food is excellent and it’s completely safe. It’s patrolled by a vast number of look-alike young policemen who all look like they originated in the same petri-dish.

After the debacle of Wednesday night we took a couple of days to travel round the country before returning to Baku; we needed to get away from anything to do with football and it’s coverage. Outside of Baku, the country really is amazing. It’s a cross between the Scottish Highlands, Chile, Norway and the Caspian Sea. The food is even better and the people completely relaxed. These people have it figured out. In remote villages high up in the mountains, supported by the largesse of the government coffers they don’t have to worry about preening football players. Rather they eat their sheep and marry their neighbours (or maybe it’s the other way round) ; even if they are family. Two days of that and DB10 and myself found our way back to the reality that the weekend CL game could utterly destroy our belief in the football. As depressed as we were, the possibility that North London might have a winner was too much to contemplate.

So, thank you Salah and Origi. Thank you random referee from Holland. Thank you VAR. As pissed and angry as I was given our pathetic second half performance if someone had offered me the choice of us winning the NoHopaCup and that lot winning the CL versus both of us losing, without hesitation I would have chosen the option we landed on. How abject and sad is that? We needed this game more than anyone else in order to qualify for next years CL. But, no, I’d prefer to suffer the ignominy of a loss to Chelski and lack of qualification (with all the economic impacts) just to deny that lot their cup. Now that’s what I call a real fan. None of this plastic rubbish. But someone willing to absorb substantial pain in order to inflict more pain on them. Ah, I’m even smiling as I write this. It’s so true. If you offered me relegation from the EPL as long as that lot finishing one place below us I would have to seriously consider it.

One other observation. It’s funny how all four English teams actually played like shit in the two finals. And quite amusing that, North London in particular put on a dismal show. Maybe it’s something in the water. Also, for further symmetry, we should compare 2006 and yesterday. A referee decision altered both games. We of course, managed to score, through one of their (prior) own. We thought we’d find our way back to the final as they now do. We were focused on a new stadium and the related economic crunch as they now are. We sold Henry. Who will they sell?

So that’s it.  Happy to be back but I’m still amazed that I miss little old Azerbajain. A nice little old country surrounded by others that don’t quite meet that description. It still does not forgive EUFA for organizing such a shitty show (playing stupid music for team introductions, have stupid on field pre-match interviews etc) and having an insane ticket allocation.  

I’ll now let the dust settle before crafting a full end of season review and set up for next season. I need time to reacquaint myself with some natural happyness before getting all upset again.


May 27th – Baku and Back

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This could well be my last post as I head off to Baku. Alongside DB10, we venture off into Asia for the NoHopaCup in the forlon hope that Mustafa will be nabbed by the Armenians. Why, oh why, could they not have swapped MickeyTarrien and Mustafa’s nationality.

There remains a small chance I’ll have returned prior to the CL final (assuming that is i ever return). Let us acknowledge that for any true Arsenal fan all we wish is that Liverpool win the CL final under any possible scenarios. There is no possibility of any other outcome that can be considered. If the choice is to sacrifice the NoHopCup on the alta of the CL gods then so be it. Losing to Chelski to ensure that Liverpool win is more than rationale. And if Liverpool do find a way to lose the CL final then us winning the NoHopaCup is no consolation whatsoever.

So I head off to the great NoHopaCup I do so in the knowledge that I’ve already traded our victory for that of Liverpools. If only now we could trade Mustafa. Maybe we can leave him behind. Maybe we can get the UK – as part of an early Brexit vote – to refuse to re-admit Mustafa back into the country. If that fails maybe we can have Mustafa stand for leadership of the Conservative Party. That would surely have him hung, drawn and quartered as they continue to eviscerate everything that is English in England.

If we do want to win this competition though it would seem we have to retire the old Wenger routine of pretending that football is a sentimental game. The approach that leads to us playing the second best goalkeeper because that keeper is leaving. Of course, the reason they are leaving is because they are not good enough to play in the EPL games. Consequently the #2 goalie plays in the cup games. So this year we have the wonderful Cech leaving. And somehow, in the most important game of the season (now) we are not going to play Leno. This is insane. Cech is about to join Chelski once he retires. We need to win this match. Of course, if we had not have bottled it against (you name the list) Crystal Palace or Brighton (to name a few) this would be a mute point. But here we are. Why are we going to play our second best goalkeeper? Hey, i know, why not play Jenkinson at right back because he’s likely to leave as well. In fact, using the same logic, we should play Mustafa as well in the hope that this ensures he finally leaves.

If we want to truly qualify for the CL then we have to play Leno. Anything else defies the nature of this game. It’s win at all costs so lets select our best team (minus MickeyTarrien of course).

Naturally I fear we’ll find a way to lose this game. Traveling all this way is nerve wracking for all to obvious reasons. But to then sit through such a tortuous game against Chelski – for whom this is essentially a home fixture – will be painful. This is no different I suppose from how Aston Villa and Derby supporters feel. Both sets are looking at the opportunity to get “promoted” to a higher league and it all rests on a single game. The outcome of which will generate tens of millions in additional revenue. All we can hope is that Kante is not fit and/or can’t play. Or that maybe real Madrid will swoop in with an early announcement of their signing of Hazard.

Like us they are a one-man team. One man on their team will determine the outcome for them and that man is Hazard. He is pivotal to everything they do and the one player capable of turning a game on it’s head with moments of inspiration and creativity. Likewise, we have one man who can turn a game on it’s head. As he most recently demonstrated against Crystal Palace.

So let’s pray that Mustafa remains on the bench (if not the airplane). And let’s pray for a glorious victory on Wednesday care of Cigarette and Aubameyang. And, most importantly, come Saturday, regardless of the outcome of our game, we will all be Liverpool supporters for a day.


May 12th – Burnley 1 Arsenal 3

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Deserved win against the brutes of Burnley. I confess I was not always convinced by Aubameyang. In the last month he has been as Henry-esque as you could ask. He, along with Cigarette, has carried us to the NoHopeCup Final. Sure, he fluffs a few chances but he’s always been in the right spot and has amassed sufficient goals to share the Golden Boot. I’d guess the last time we had a player that did this was Henry.

It’s a pleasure to finally win a league game – and away as well. Of course, it just goes to highlight the waste that this season has been. One win from that dreadful string of performances against Everton, Palace, Wolves and Brighton would easily have seen us automatically qualify. What a wasted opportunity.

Our first half performance was pretty dull. The only excitement was Aubameyang hitting the post and generally terrorizing their defense. Meantime, as ever, we looked the usual shambles at the back. Monreal still looks off his game. The other Greek looks a little unsteady and Mustafa is reliably and consistently a liability. Nothing new here. Insert here the usual comments on Ob1 and Mickeytarrien. There were no lessons that we’d learn today about our weak links.

It might seem the game turns on a Burnley mistake in the second half. It would be more accurate to say it turned on the introduction of Koscielny. He stabilized the team. Though at the time I was screaming at Emery. Why is he risking our premier center half in a no-name game in the cold north-west against a bunch of Burnely brutes?

The entire game Burnley were bullies. Over physical and nasty. They accumulated bookings like we accumulate away defeats. And yet, whenever one of their players is touched they complained and moaned endless. They seem quite capable of handing it out but, as evidenced by their no-talented forward Barnes, once they are touched, they all scream and argue. It started when Barnes tried to block Leno from running out with the ball post corner. Barnes was rightly booked. Though listening to the two retarded commentators, you would not think so. In fact, the entire game they seemed to worship at the feet of the down-trodden, hard-working Burnely. Almost willing them to beat Arsenal. Going to so far as to claim there was no Arsenal structure and that Burnely – at 0-0 – were overachieving. They ignored our chances and seemed to revel in the physicality and “Englishness” of the Burnley approach. This is classic of old-school commentators and ex-average pundit commentary. They seem to wallow in the football from 20 years ago – the route one football of hard knocks. Somehow, they don’t seem to grasp what era football is now operating in. It’s as though they actually believe football was better 20 years ago when players were getting kicked-off the park by thugs and other players like Barnes. Not once did they comment on the string of unnecessary and late tackles put in by Cork, Lawton, Barnes etc. Instead they lauded the efforts of their great manager Sam Dyke – surely the ugliest manager in the league.

Thankfully we were able to glow in the excellence of Guendouzi today. He was head and shoulders (appropriate for his hair) our best player. He was the one who drove the midfield forward. He was supported quite well by Elneny who played more like another center half. But Guendouzi was always available to receive the ball. His first instinct was to turn up field and build constructively. He surely benefitted from the absence of Xhaka – as did the entire team. Willock was not so great today. One or two flashes but not involved enough. And in the first half Ob1 – who the commentator kept referring to as e-Wobi – maybe he is something out of Star Wars. Or maybe he is the internet version of a wingback. Either way he was awful in the first half. Incapable of beating his man or making the right pass. As much as I’d like us to ditch him (or at least have him as one of our 3 usable substitutes) he was not as poor as MickeyTarrien. And, unlike the Armenian, Ob1 actually woke up in the second half. With Ob1 I think the solution is a first rate therapist. Someone who can instill some self-belief and confidence in him. He’s now, at the age of 23, notched up 100 games for Arsenal. Yet, he suffers from a lack of confidence and lack of willingness to take responsibility. Once or twice a season we’ll see him fire on all cylinders. When he actively runs at the defenders. But most of the time – like in the first half – he’ll opt to pass backwards, sideways or underhit his passes. However, he at least has age on his side. Whereas Mickeytarrien is being paid to close to £200k/week to be utterly peripheral. Today he was too slow to even track back and help old man Lichtenstienbergstein. Let’s hope we can take and leave him in Baku.

I was disappointed not to see Eddie start today. When he swapped with Willock the pace of our team picked up. It was great to see him get his first goal. He needs more game time. With InjuredBeck now leaving let’s hope Eddie gets his chance. He waited all year for his 30 minutes. He looked good when he came on. I doubt he can be our Rashford but he could certainly improve on what we have.  

I was also surprised that Emery started Aubameyang. I assume it was to allow him a chance of the golden boot. But how made would we be if he was injured? Luckily we had the pleasure of seeing him smile his way through the entire game. In that second half he received a supply line from Guendouzi, Ob1 and half the Burnley team. He’s not as accomplished as Cigarette with build up play. But, I’ve rarely seen someone hover on the last line of defense and time his runs so well. He is such a natural goalscorer. The first goal was calmness personified whereas the second one was stunning. This team is where it is because of our two forwards. Without them we’d be an average mid table team. Now we need to build around them.

OK, well that’s it for this season. Time to start thinking about next year. Oh, hold on. It turns out we have one more game. Next year will be dictated by whether we can beat Chelski in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere in the middle kingdom in the depths of the middle ages. Kudos to anyone who can (1) spell the name of the country of the final and (2) place the country on a map of the world. It’s beyond absurd that we have to travel there for this final. It’s insane that there are so few allocated tickets. But then corruption and football go hand in hand. It starts with FIFA and runs right though UEFA. Just listen to their self-serving plans to change the UCL format. It’s such an overreach that I hope there can be some grass roots reaction from fans. It’s out of the question to have UCL games at the weekends. The Premier League is paramount and must remain so. It’s the bedrock of the success of the EPL. The supporters of this plan are just those fucked up leagues that have no fans and just two teams. That’s you Spain, Italy, Germany and France. They need a European League because they don’t have the depth of competition locally to generate the attendance and revenues that the EPL yields.

And, this week, we have to listen to that most corrupt of people, Sept Blatter, complain that footballs is being corrupted by money. That’s like listening to Hitler talking about the evils of anti-Semitism. Surely, it’s senility on his part. As he sits there in his (still) FIFA paid accommodation looking for his £400K worth of watches that he left in his FIFA office when he was run out of town.

As we continue to watch the beautiful game and marvel at the chase for the title, admire the quality of football, and, even, gasp at the European mid-week score lines, we need to be aware that there are dark clouds on the horizon. Just as the USA is now run by a nihilistic, egomaniacal, buffoon who is intent on being the ultimate disruptor – at all costs to everyone else – without any guidance based on morals or ethics, so it proceeds with European football.

Three point gained today. A good result and one or two great individual performances. But, it just reinforces what an opportunity we blew last week again Brighton. It’s hard to get past that given the results of both Chelski and Sp*rs today. Sure, they might have played differently if we’d have won last week. But it can’t change the sense that we just capitulated just when he needed to demonstrate a backbone. Valencia was better than I feared. It’s an improvement over Marseille. And maybe we’ll find a backdoor way into the UCL.

So all eyes now turn to Baku. Fucked up Baku. Fucked up EUFA. And fucked up ticket allocation. EUFA have intentionally selected a venue where they actively acknowledge that the only airport in town can’t service more than 15,000 fans per day.  And that’s their official justification for the lack of tickets for both teams. If it were not the case that both our teams are run by remote, uberwealthy, corrupt owners, the two teams should have joined together to refuse to play in such a remote venue. It is a complete disgrace to the fans of both teams.


May 5th – Arsenal 1 Brighton 1

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This used to be a labour of love. Now it’s just a labour. What a waste today. In fact, the last month in the league has been such a waste. We’ve had so many chances to wrap up a place in the top 4 but have chosen to waste every opportunity. Of course, we know this team is not good enough. But when the chance is there you have to take it. In the exact same way Liverpool found a way to win against Newcastle by getting goals from someone we found the way to do the exact opposite. We managed not to score when we should and then gift them a goal when we shouldn’t. That’s gulf in class we have to bridge. We don’t have a winning mentality. It’s not clear we even have a mentality.

How else can you explain losing to Crystal Palace, Everton, Wolves and Leicester? Yet we can win away at Naples? We’ll surely look back on this period, as we did after Leicester won the EPL, and wonder how did we not managed to automatically qualify when the teams around us were so weak? This was our chance to really damage Sp*rs; to deny them CL qualification and cause them financial trauma. Chelski are different, because they’ll always have a bankrolled team. They will come back stronger. As will Manure. They can’t be this poor next year.

How do you give up a goal to BHA like that? First off you need to have Xhaka be as moronic as Mustafa usually is. Classic Arsenal. Get beaten on the counter-attack. Just like the days of AW. Shows how little we’ve learned over the years. Today we can’t blame Mustafa. He was not so bad today. But others were. Monreal has lost the plot. Ozil was unnervingly quiet. Mikeytarrien remains a light weight player. Even Cigarette, as impressive as he was today, made too many mistakes. Our best palyer across the 90 minutes was Aubameyang. Yet he wasted too many clear cut chances. As we will in for the rest of our lives, we missed Ramsey today. He might have found a way to score. Once they equalized we stepped up the pressure. But then, with the 3 substitutions, we lost our impetus. Just as we were creating chances we reorganized and starting playing through Ob1. It took another 10 minutes before we mustered a clear chance. In this entire time there was so much languid passing and lack of responsibility. It was not clear who was responsible for driving the team forward.  But let’s circle back to Xhaka. His first pass today went to BHA and his second went right out of play. He’s too casual and too slow. Today just proved again that he’s a liability. Not at the level of Mustafa but pretty close. And you can be sure he’ll be in the team next year.

As they say, the position in the league does not lie. We are just not good enough. We’ve seen that too often this year. Aside from Cigarette and Aubameyang we are bereft of world class players. I’ve finally excluded Ozil from this list because his contributions can be world class but the frequency of them is too inconsistent. Today was another chance for him to stamp his authority on the game.

Our defense has been crap nearly the entire year. There were periods today in the second half when it was shambles. From Monreal panicing in the box to Leno passing to their players. BHA could have easily scored a second. We were a shambles. One commentator observed that the starting 3 today would not be part of our future. It goes beyond that though. As Xhaka demonstrated, he’s too slow to defend and too casual. That penalty was just careless. The odds were that BHA would have missed any shot anyway. Immediately after conceding their penalty, BHA could have grabbed a second. The entire defense was in disarray. It was both scary, embarrassing and yet wonderfully symptomatic of our entire year. We have this innate ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This is not a team ready to be in the CL.

It’s been unappealing to review the previous Arsenal games. Not that the reviews could be any more painful than suffering through watching those games. The last run of games have been such a groundhog day experience.

The irony is that in previous years we would not even be involved at this stage in the season. By now we should be far off the pace. Unfortunately, though we have replaced Wenger with a manager who is destined to tease us with the promise of a better future. We should have read the footnotes. Better yes, but just by an inch or two. Not sufficient to actually make a fundamental shift in the club. We also have to recognize that one manager can’t change the club for the better. For the worse, for sure. We also need a management team that finds a Technical Director in a timely manner so that we can set up our summer targets. And yet, many months after our shaggy haired German has departed we’re still no further along in replacing him.

Before the season started it was clear we were not ready to compete for the league nor the top 4. As the season developed and we recovered form the first two losses, this team showed signs of development and accumulated points. But for the most part we languished in 5th or 6th. But then at the start of the year the teams around us decided to emulate Arsenal and throw away managers and or points. Now are expectations were raised. We even managed to beat a few of these teams and touch 3rd place. Now we started to expect. Now we believed we were worthy of Champions League football. And this from a team that regularly included Mustafa, Mickeytarrien, Ob1 and, latterly, Elneny. By the time Emery figured out his preferred eleven we’d started to pick up the predictable injuries. The loss of Ramsey for even a few games – let alone the rest of his career, destabilized our delicate midfield balance. So after touching the un lofty heights of 3rd place and after the dusting off from the storage area conversations regarding St. Totteringham day, this team completely reverted to type. It managed to rediscover it’s complete lack of belief and backbone. Along with Chelski and ManManure. Even Sp*rs are jealous of our ineptness. The top two can’t stop winning and the rest of us are playing like we are all teams destined for relegation – though they might be better than any of us.

How does this happen? How do Manure implode like this? How do we perform so ably against Napoli and implode against Crystal Palace? Some part of our troubles do lay at the feet of Emery. He selected Mustafa. And also Elneny. But the club bought these players. You can be sure none of these would have gotten into the teams of the top 6. Look at Theo. He barely plays for Everton. Every team has their weaknesses but ours just seem more egregious. But it’s not just these two or three players. It does not explain our last 4 league performances. That lies at the feet of the players. We fielded strong teams. But decided to put up a weak performance. Minus Ramsey there is little driving force in this team. There is no leadership. We’ve seen this for many years now. Some (cough cough) will go back 15 years to Viera. Or even to Gilberto. Torreira might grow into that. But Xhaka never will. And Kosclieny is not like that. But we need someone to take charge on the pitch and wake up players. All season long we’ve seen change at half-time that have lived up our performance. How can that be? When and why can’t we play the full 90 minutes? This all leads back to mentality. And that lay at the footsteps of all the players. It’s a cultural issue. These players require on-field leadership.. And until then we’re like some emotionally delicate species that, depending on the perfect alignment of the sun, temperature and wind conditions might deem to apply themselves. At this level of the game nearly all the players have the talent required but it’s those that apply themselves and use that talent that succeed. Likewise, the margins between teams are so fine that the collective will of a team; the mentality of the team can be that 0.05% that makes all the difference. And the lack of it will consign us to being the bridesmaid not the bride.

Today was the culmination of the entire season. Wasted chances, poor application and desperately weak defending. Maybe we should take comfort from watching Liverpool. They acquired one defender, Van Dyke, and their entire team solidified. I fear though that there is not the management acumen at Arsenal to be smart enough to go out and identify and acquire that person. Instead we’ll have many B+ players (Xhaka, Mkeytarrien, Ob1) that will never elevate the team but will always have us close by.

Of course we still have Valencia to by-pass and then, hopefully the final in some country none of us could find on a map. Maybe we’ll get lucky but I would not hold your breath. We have three remaining away games and we must won the right two. Beyond that though, we can take comfort from not being as fucked up as Manure but also be aware that we don’t have the money available to compete with them. They surely can’t be as bad next year. And Wolves and Everton will improve. And we will have an unproven manager, a weak squad and a lack of a winning mentality. Not exactly how you’d like to start off a new campaign.

I remain depressed and lacking in optimism for our future. Make some radical changes – dump Mustafa by the side of the road. Sell Mickeytarrien. Buy a world class center half and a holding mid-field player and grab Zaha from Crystal Palace. Then, maybe, would I start to believe. In the meantime, we’ll have to pray that we the restoration and rebuilt Koscielny available for Thursdays game. In the meantime, I’m left to brood over the wasted season we’ve just gone through. It’s just like that Leicester season, we’ll look back and wonder how we were incapable of directly qualifying for the CL with all the other teams fucking up.

– LB7

April 7th – Everton 1 Arsenal 0

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We just had to play an away game. Arsenal are persecuted. It’s not just Kevin Friend or Mike Dean. But somehow the EPL forces us to play away. And then, to boot, to go up north where it can be slightly chilly with the home teams fans boo-ing us. It’s just not fair. It has to stop. Where is the UN Human Rights Council. How can this injustice persist?

Crap. And Boring. And poor team selection. Some was injury induced of course. No Kosclieny, Xhaka or Ramsey. But it’s hard to watch a team with Mustafa, Mickeytarrien and Elneny. We lost the game in the first half. And then lost it again in the second half. In many ways we were fortunate to only lose by one goal.

We had a few chances. Unfortunately, Cigarette was extinguished in front of goal today. The rest of his link-up and defensive play was excellent. But that breakaway in the first 10 minutes when he was unable to get a shot on target was the game-turning miss. But I also don’t understand how that was not a penalty by Zouma who came in like a freight-train on him. But given the multiple decisions we saw thereafter by Friend thereafter it was not too surprising.

There was no luck today. Of course, that was an illegal foul throw – but you can’t blame the ref for that – that’s the linesman job. However, you never see that called. Then they had the rub of the green as, after Jagielka won the header, it ricocheted back off Kolinsac to easily score.

We then had to put up with Friend awarding every free-kick to them and every yellow card to us. The one to Sokratis, who was excellent all day, was particularly painful as we won’t have him for our next two games. Having him in the center is key to our defense. He reads the game so well and is generally calm. Unlike the idiot to his right you could have been sent off in the second half when he clattered Clavert-Lewin into the boards. I don’t mind the foul itself. Anyone playing for Everton with a double-barrel name is deserving of that treatment. But he’d had ample time to just put the ball into touch. I don’t fancy Troy Deeney without Sokratis. It was a borderline foul for Sokratis but somehow warranted a yellow from Friend. And to think Dean was on the side-line as the fourth referee does not bare thinking about.

Elneny was way out of his depth today. As he normally is. Playing him was a mistake – recognized by our half-time changes. In fact, today Emery lost us the first half by his starting selection. Throughout the game Mickeytarrien was dire. He lost the ball too often and was too slow with his release. Combine that with the ineffectiveness of Maitlaind-Niles on the right and the languid Ozil meant that there was no movement or creativity in the first half. We made this too easy for Everton. But, before all this transpired Cigarette should have scored and/or had a penalty.

Th second half was better care of Ramsey but we could not take the few chances we had; at least we had more urgency. We could have played for another hour and I don’t think we’d have scored. When you see Cigarette slip in the box after a slick pass from the surprisingly effective Ob1 you know it’s not your day. And when Ramsey puts one off-target from just around the penalty spot you know you’re fucked.  There were very few bright spots today. Guendouzi was industrious but picked up a dubious Friend yellow card which restricted his aggression. But he worked hard and tries to move forward. Paired alongside Elneny is tough on him though. Neither made themselves available for the outlet balls. And our wing-backs were both poor. It’s not often Kolinsac gets subbed at half time. But today he was shit.

But by that standard most of the team could have been replaced. They all seemed to be too weak in possession. Monreal had one of his worst games. He lost most of his duels and was always complaining and moaning but continued to allow himself to be out muscled. Of course, the few times he was strong Friend awarded fouls against him. He was beaten too many times today and added nothing going forward.

It’s just not reasonable for the Premier League to expect us to play so many away games. Maybe next year we can have two leagues. The Home BPL and the Away BPL. We would finally be champions. Then we could play in the Home Champions league. Though finding opponents to come and play us might be challenging.

Emery does not have the players or squad he needs. Elneny and Mickeytarrien and our retard German defender are not of the quality we need. Everyone knows this. Maitland-Niles is still unproven. A defense that had Kosclieny, Holding and Bellerin would have changed this game. But all teams have to withstand injuries. And that’s where our depth fails us.

But these wankey players does not quite speak to why we drop some many away points.  It’s been pleasing to have been in 4th place (and we still are) and even 3rd place. But there is no doubt we are not a Champions League team. It’s great to beat Man United and draw against Sp*rs but you can’t lose these games. Not when you still have to go to Watford, Wolves Leicester and Burnley. Given we have not won one of our last nine away games the probability of us winning all these games is pretty much zero. Winning one would be a starting point. But beyond that it would be a miracle.

To win one away requires a different mental attitude. Not the one that was on display today. There has to be on-field leadership and physical strength. How different are these issues from AW days? Though it’s improved it’s still, at core, the same issue. That’s where a change in personnel comes in. And that’s where transfer money becomes a big factor.

I felt resigned as soon as that goal went in; resigned to another underperforming Arsenal away performance. The game was so predictable and dreary. We even managed to make them look like a good team. All the other teams around us have gone out of their way to drop important points. They have tried to wave us through into the Champions League. But it will still require us to win these remaining games. So, start planning for the HoHopeCup for next year.

Which leads us to Thursday. Which is at least at home. But we need Kosclieny back. And Torreira. And the atmosphere will help. We will surely get a reaction. But the pathway is difficult. Arguably tougher than Liverpools. Would you prefer Porto to Napoli? But there will be motivation and focus unlike what we saw today. This week could be the making or breaking of our season. It’s the pressure end of the season; it’s time for Emery to pull this team out of the shadow of AW and those most recent failures.

  • LB7

March 10th – Arsenal 2 Manchester United 0

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…And we’re back. Back in the top four. Back to winning big games. Back to keeping clean sheets. And back to being given penalties and back to scoring them.

Where to start? OMG, that was so enjoyable. It felt a little like last week. We came out and dominated, we were aggressive and created a number of chances that we managed to spurn. But then they also repaid the compliment. Lukaku hit the bar when it was easier to score and, Fred hit the post and in-between Shaw created multiple chances for them.

Again, Leno was outstanding today. Two weeks running now he’s literally saved us. Today was even more impressive. His positioning and reading of the game helped nullify one Lukaku breakaway in the second half. He movement off his line in the first half block Lukaku. His distribution was better. And overall, his calmness stabilized our defense.

Sokratis was brilliant again. He and Kosclieny form a solid partnership. Kosclieny always looking one tackle away from another injury. But between them they nullified ManU. But Sokratis demonstrated controlled aggression throughout the game, read the game perfectly and imposed his character on the game.

The team selection, again, surprised me – like last week. But, again, OneEye got it spot on. I could not believe he played both Ozil and Ramsey. And he dropped Ob1. And Mickeytarrien (though he could be injured). And Guendouzi. And he played Maitland-Niles and Kolinsac. And he played both Cigarette and Aubameyang. And he reverted the shape of the team to a back three. But it worked perfectly. In the first 20 minutes ManU had no response to our onslaught.

Cigarette should have at least gotten onto one of Kolinsac’s crosses. We should have troubled De Gea more than we did. It took a spectacular and speculative shot from Xhaka to beat him. But we deserved it. With Ramsey playing deeper alongside Xhaka we restricted their ability to play through the middle. And our wingbacks provided cover for the back three. Down both flanks we out played them. We dominated possession and controlled the game in the first half. Ozil was involved and Ramsey worked so hard to track Pogba that Pogba was barely in the game.

The second half was a little bit more subdued than the frenetic pace of the first half. Man U had more possession but they created few outright chances because of the organization and physicality of our defense. Whether it was Xhaka diving into tackles in our box or Kosclieny throwing himself into block shots, they are put their bodies on the line – including Leno.

Maitland-Niles was a brave choice. He started the game with inconsistent distribution and took time to find the pace of the game. But as the game wore on, while still giving the ball away or losing the ball too much, he grew in his defensive duties. He had a testing time with Shaw, Rashford and Martial. But his recovery pace and concentration saw him, especially in the second half, win all the important tackles. By the end of the game he was completely wiped-out and desperate for the final whistle. He is a strange bird this one. He simultaneously shows calmness and maturity and yet makes some shit passes and gives away possession too easily. But he was a much better choice than our German Kamikaze meathead who, thankfully, stayed on the bench the entire game – his perfect position.

Both forwards squandered too many chances today. Cigarette though adds so much more to our overall game though. He works much harder and links up play much better. But each of them is going through a dry patch. It’s amazing we keep winning without any real goal contributions from them. Cigarette had another gilt-edge chance right after our second goal after the ball bounced over Lindelof but he somehow managed to miss the target. Too often the two of them would pass up the chance to shot in order to pass to the other. They have to be more selfish; they have to stop trying to be so intricate inside the box and just shoot.

Kolinsac is such an effective wing-back and yet a crummy full-back. With Monreal behind him, Kolinsac can dominate and create down the left. Throughout the game he bullied Young and set up numerous chances. Xhaka was able to continuously feed him the ball. Ramsey and Ozil linked up well with him. Most of our breakout came down that side. He even defended every now and then.

Of course, Man U are hobbled by injuries. But for a club and team who’ve spent, literally, billions of dollars on their players, they deserve no sympathy. They certainly had enough quality players on the pitch to mount a serious challenge and they had enough chances. Thankfully though they fell to Lukaku. But we outplayed them for too long. And they were too slow to react to our tactics. Thank you Ole!.

And thank you Lee Mason for the penalty. That’s some kind of Arsenal record – two penalties in two premier league games. Both in the same area of the box and neither of them seemed like penalties. We’ve, of course, seen them given against us way to often so it’s nice to see them go our way. And this time Aubameyang managed to actually score. From that point on I was way more relaxed. I thought Man U had one goal in them but not two. We continued to create chances and failed to convert them.

Ignoring the NoHopaCup, that’s 4 points from two top 6 games. We deserved six and should have had six but I’ll take 4 and would have taken that gratefully before these two games. In both games we played with energy and drive. And each was based on a different tactical set up. One was a defensive masterclass whereas today we were more expansive and attacking. And that is a credit to OneEye. I’ve been quite critical of him in the past few months and have doubted his suitability. I still remain skeptical but I’ve certainly been more impressed over the last month or so. His selections have been braver and his tactics more varied. I have little doubt that with the wonderful AW we would not have gained these results.

Here we sit in the top four with just 8 games left. Of course, we have ample experience to find a variety of ways to through away this advantage. I’m just grateful that we’re even in this position. Through the ebb and flow of the season I would not have predicted we’d be in this position. I believe we have fewer challenging games required to secure Champions League football via the premier league than through the NoHopaCup. I did not see the Rennes game but did see all the usual dramatic, bleating from Arsenal fans after a loss. We were one nil up and had a man sent off. We then lost. Go figure! Sure, we could have managed the game better and only lost by one goal but shit happens. Our fans are like petulant children (I think I have a few of those) who go into meltdown with one poor game. We just have to win by two goals and keep a clean sheet. It’s not like we’re playing Barcelona (shame it’s not PSG or Real Madrid). You need to be able to come back and win these games if you want to progress. So, let’s see if we can win with eleven men. We had a great reaction to Thursdays game. But that game was a shit reaction to the Sunday game. Let’s hope we don’t have the same reaction to this result.  

We know that European referees just love to give out yellow and red cards. The very best European refs are better than ours in England but the average European ref is even worse than ours (except for Mike Dean). Let’s hope we get home field advantage this Thursday. And then we’re onto another (and final) stupid fucking international break.

Did I ever mention how I hate FIFA? This is the worst time of the year to introduce these breaks just as the season is coming to a climax. After 30 games (with other breaks) it’s just starting to get exciting and yet we have to hit pause. Pretty soon FIFA would have expanded the World Cup to +150 teams so all these qualification and friendly games will be completely irrelevant. But they still schedule them in order to fill their coffers with yet more money. It’s all about their money.

With eight games left the top four has some interesting permutations. Chelsea are inconsistent and it’s not clear they have the mental fortitude to get into the top 4. Manchester United, even after todays’ loss, have clearly regained their mojo and will surely find their way into the top 4. If only they could have retained Mourinho for longer.

But in terms of pressure, you have to imagine that the Rental Boys are starting to sweat. As they get ready to move into their redecorated home they have to be considering the nightmare situation unfolding. As they lose to Burnley and now Southampton, with upcoming games against Liverpool and then Man City, they are in danger of not making the top 4. If we can hold steady for eight more games we just might be able to send Sp*rs into a financial meltdown situation. It’s too early to get too optimistic. But if they can lose a few more games and fail to qualify the financial impact ($70mm+) combined with the debt burden of their redecoration could impair their ability to both retain Erickson and Ali while also failing to attract any new players. If the gods are kind to us we could see everything implode under the financial weight of their debt and then see Pottechino leave under too much pressure. Oh what a wonderful dream this would be. I would even sacrifice our position in the top 4 to Chelski if that assured us that Sp*rs were locked out of the top 4. Happy days indeed.

A great day today and a wonderful weekend of results. Once we get past Thursday (one way or the other) we’ll enter suspended animation for a couple of weeks but we can sustain ourselves with the awareness of the pure panic that must now be running through the management and ownership at Sp*rs. We managed to navigate our way through our new stadium. Let’s hope they fail epically.

  • LB7

March 2nd – Sp*rs 1 Arsenal 1

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Football is a team game. And when you have Mustafa on your team you’re generally fucked. We should have taken all three points today. We were the better team. But we also had Mustafa who just had to have one of his panic, bonehead moments. Of course, Aubameyang did not help either.

The team selection was surprising but it worked. We played a controlled, counter-attack game. They rarely dominated or threatened our goal. In the second half it was just the one shot from the penalty. We shut them down and should have taken all three points. Before the game I was fearful of how we might be pulled apart and how unlikely it would be for the rental boys to lose three straight games. I would have accepted gleefully a point before the game. But now it feels much more like 2 points dropped. In watching the game I could see us grow in confidence and composure. There were too many of our players were playing too well. Too many of them actually turned up for a big game. How very un-Arsenal of them.

Leno made a brilliant double save in the first half and even if his distribution was somewhat wayward. Sokratis and Kosclieny were impervious today but my favorite player was Monreal. He was physical, defensively aggressive, creative going forward and generally impenetrable. What a pleasure it. Is to see him play as a regular left-back and how we’ve missed him this season.

Someone somewhere has made disparaging comments about both Ob1 and Mickeytarrien. Obviously that retard knows nothing about football. Today Ob1, as well as he played, was surpassed by Mickeytarrien. Both were more dominant in the first half. Ob1 in particular started strong. He took Trippier to the cleaners on a number of occasions. I’m sure having Monreal behind him helped. Nonetheless this was a more assured performance, in a big game, than we’ve seen in a while. And MickeyTarrien was excellent. He seemed to cover the entire pitch. And his distribution was excellent. Today he looked as good as he did when he first played for ManU. On todays performance (and mid-week) we can now claim that we got the better of that Sanchez trade. In the last few weeks, on his return from injury, we’re finally getting to see that creative player who can also work back and defend. These two were brilliant today.

Unfortunately, the chances to win the game fell to Cigarette and Aubameyang. Also season they’ve been so effective. But today, on the big stage in the big game they both let us down. Cigarette should have had two goals today. In the first two minutes and then later on when he shinned the ball wide. When he left the pitch you could see how self-aware he was at being taken off. Not upset with OneEye but disappointed with himself. And he should be. But at least he set up the Ramsey goal. We’ve seen this from him in the last few games – those missed chances have been hidden but the overall number of opportunities we’ve had to score in those games. But in these big games there are fewer chances. And as for Aubameyang. What a sit penalty. Even after our mental German that was the game for us right there. A shit penalty followed by a wasted chance when Ob1 cut the ball back. And, in a prior play, down the right hand side he managed to cross the ball behind the rejuvenated Ozil as he’d run into the box. Our two ace strikers letting us down; what a re the odds on that. Sp*rs have to consider themselves very lucky. From what we saw today they will have to rediscover themselves to stay in the top 4. We though are outside it now care of our gormless German.  We need to beat ManU without Torreira. It’s hard to see how our two aces can play this badly again.

How good was Ramsey’s goal? And how important was he with his work rate? We will miss him once he jumps to Juventus. Talking about box-to-box. He defined it today. As much as I love Ozil he just does not and cannot work that hard. The composure with which he sat Lorris on his arse was awesome. His link up play with both wing-backs was excellent and his ability to shut down their distribution was so important.

Guendouzi was interesting today. Funny how he only played 45 minutes. He’ll be playing more now with Torreira’s 3 match ban. He made some great tackles and with Xhaka provided the necessary defensive cover; they stopped Erickson and Son. But sometimes Guendouzi would be careless with his passing out of the back and exposure us to the counter-attack. He’s so young though that he’ll surely learn from these mistakes. But no-one would have guessed over the summer that he’d be starting in games such as these.

The referring was different today; in general, he allowed for a more physical game. Talyor gave two penalties that were not penalties. The linesman did not flag for the offside immediately before the penalty. But actually, Taylor allowed for a quite physical game in the first 80 minutes. That benefitted Sp*rs who were more physical in the challenges. Then, at the end we saw the normal Christmas handouts of yellow cards culminating in the red for Torreira. This will prove costly for us as we now lose him for the visit of ManU and two other games. Given all the other challenges in the game – the Rose one on Leno, Sissoko challenges and other Rose ones this one did not standout as any more reckless.

Today was two points dropped. But don’t tell me, any longer, that Sp*rs are a better team than us. Sure, they might be in the (non)Champions League and ahead of us in the table. But this season (in the PL only) we got the better of them. And today they had no game whereas we did. We were superior on the day and deserved to win. Replace Mustafa with any one of their defenders and we would have had all three points. So hopefully our short-term inferiority complex has been addressed.

The last five games have seen us revert to our improved early season performances. Today was a performance we would surely not have gotten under the great AW. We would not have been as tactically astute and as defensively solid (minus one dimwit German). That bodes well for OneEye. As critical as I’ve rightly been of him today we looked the better of the two managers. He got more out of his, arguably, less talented players that Pocahontas.  The substitutions were effective and we played the better football. Now we just need to buy ourselves another center-half and/or get Holding back into the team. And if we can drop our brainless German somewhere into the deep sea in the transfer window we’ll all be happier. Don’t ask for any money in return. Include a few burgers and beer. Just see if some poor soul will take him off our hands. Maybe if we leave him outside our Stadium early on a Thursday morning the dustbin men will pick him up from us and dispose of him. Of course our two great strikers were also responsible for the lack of three points but they have earned the right to have poor games. NotMusafa makes bonehead plays every single game. When insurance companies right up policies and try and define the word liability they specifically reference NotMustHave.

  • LB7