January 26th – Southampton 1 Arsenal 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


January 23rd – Southampton 1 Arsenal 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • LB7

January 18th – Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


December 6th – Sp*rs 2 Arsenal 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nov 1st – Man United 0 Arsenal 1

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Wow, what a contrast. That was one shitty ManU team and an Arsenal team that looked prepared, focused and sharp. Nothing like the dire, putrid display of last week. We were by far the better team. Even if it took a miracle of M. Dean giving us a penalty at Old Trafford. When was the last time we got a penalty there? No clue. Don’t care. And don’t tell me that the lack of fans makes no difference. It was pretty clear cut though – not that that would have stopped Dean in the past. This was well deserved. We should have been ahead before half time. Saka, Willian and Aubameyang should all have scored. Throughout the entire game I think Leno had one save to make and one deflection that came off his head and post.

The team selection definitely had me worried. Playing Elneny against Pogba and Fernandez was worrying. But this fear was slightly offset by the reappearance of Holding rather than Mustafa. Matland-Niles must have been upset not to be playing. And to have neither regular starting midfield – Xhaka and Ceballos – not starting was equally unexpected. Areta got all these changes spot on.

Elneny was excellent today. He complimented Partey perfectly. The two of them glided through the midfield. Swift, simple one touch triangles. And, heavens above, forward passes through the lines. We were so much more dangerous than last week at home. It’s amazing how comfortable Elneny looked. Unflustered and available to receive the ball from the back three al la Xhaka. Playing that short pass out to the wingbacks after receiving the ball from the defenders. Except Elneny has a little more speed and gile. Alongside Partey, he kept the ball moving and the game flowing.

Partey was dominating. Physical and deft with touches. When he lost the ball he would recover and fight back. Going forward he has an eye for a forward pass. He trailed Pogba and dominated him both physically and tactically. Out Thomas is the real deal. He was outstanding today. The lynch-pin of this team. That touch of aggression and physicality we’ve been missing. But aligned with touch and speed. He is Torreira but with a superior touch and creative awareness.

On the wings Bellerin had as good a game as I can remember. He overlapped Willian and provided a handful of great crosses. He was physical and covered Mr. Holding, who is not exactly blessed with speed. All I ask is that he learns to get tighter to their wingers to stop more crosses coming in.

On the left Saka was electric today. Maybe more so in the first half – when he should have scored. But he pulled their right side apart. I love Rashford and Greenwood is an absolute star. But if you had to pick the best young (or old) English player on the pitch today you’d pick Saka. We was always available to receive the ball, intelligent with his distribution and creative. His link up play with Aubemeyang and Tierney was flawless. He made runs from team; attack their backline and kept them all on their toes. His only obvious blemish was that missed header. But he is surely now one of the first name on the team sheet.

Behind him Tierney was solid and reliable. Those early days of him marauding forward as a wing-back have been replaced by a solid left sided defender. He needs to work a little on his crossing. Aside from him disastrous header in the second half he help stabilize that left hand side.

Gabriel is a revelation. In his understated way he’s consistently dominated that backline. We (or some, not me) talk about our young French center-half and how he needs time and guidance. Yet Gabriel is only a few years older but looks assured and reliable. His distribution is simple and clean. Again, having Partey and Elneny in midfield helps. But there were very few of those speculative long balls today.

Prior to the penalty we had yet another period of sustain possession where we funneled the ball quickly across our lines and via our defense probing their defensive covering. There were multiple periods in the game where we patiently played it out of defense. They never put on a high press. This was one of their many mistakes and amplified Ole tactical short-comings. Long may he continue at Man U. With the talent they have at their disposal they looked surprisingly languid and spineless. It was only in the last 10 minutes that they applied any real pressure.

Leno looked just a tad unsure with some of his second half distribution often putting his defenders – Holding in particular – under unnecessary pressure. But, overall, he was barely under any pressure. He only had one save from Greenwood in the first half and that ricocheted off Tierney in the second half.

How bad was Cigarette today? Bad enough such that Willian was not our worst player. To be slightly fair – which I hate, Willan linked up well with Bellerin and worked very hard. Arteta needs to get him to move the ball quicker with less touches though. And, he should have done better than hit the bar in the first half. But Cigarette seems to be slowly being extinguished. He made one or two decent passes but too often he losses possession but being over complicated on the ball. When he moves the ball quickly he’s so much better. But today he caused too much of our inter-play to breakdown. Too often the ball would go into him, he’s either have a bad first touch, or, he would be that first man but then try and do too much with the ball.

Sometime soon Aubameyang will have to play center forward. Cigarette will score goals again. But Aubameyang will add more threat than either Cigarette or Eddie. He was involved much more today and, as expected, dispatched a flawless penalty.

Arteta redeemed himself today. That team selection, as weird and unexpected as it was, was perfect. That midfield combination freed up Partey and liberated the rest of the team. We had more attacking intent than any game since the start of the season. Against Liverpool and Man City, with our understandable inferiority complex, we just tried to hit them on the counter attack. Today, we controlled the game for substantial periods and dominated an average Man United. Last year we drew with them when we should have won. This year, with a proper manager (albeit at the expense of one accountant) we were brave enough to take the game to them and got our just rewards.

Arteta won the tactical side of the game on all fronts. By his starting team, positional adjustments and then by deploying the right substitutions are the right time. A perfect Arteta performance. As downbeat, angry and, frankly, worried, as I was with our dreary, turgid performance against Vardy and Rogers, today reminded me that I need to be patient. Of course, I am renowned for my infinite patience; one of the calmest people anyone knows. People often comment how quiet, calm and reserved I am with my emotions while watching Arsenal; a right paragon of Zen. We (and that means me) need to give Arteta time. I’ve always known that. I’ve preached incremental progress and developmental progress. I’ve lectured others on the need to support Arteta and not judge him for 2 years. We’ve already surpassed initial expectation by winning the F A Cup and qualifying for Europe with an average team. He has elevated our game, improved players and started a long, hard rebuild. And days like today remind us of the long-term upside for him and this team. It’s just that it will be a bumpy road.

Mike Dean awarded us a penalty! Whatever next. And that decision gave us all three points. It’s a miracle. A thoroughly deserved one. We were the better team. Played the better football and looked more likely to score. A day to be happy and revel in the talent of Saka, Partey, Aubemeyang and Gabriel. We even managed to withstand Mustafa coming onto the pitch for the last few minutes.

Time to sit back and wallow in the glory of three points from Old Trafford. A win (away) against a top six team (that happen to be in 18th place). And the continued growth of this team. Today we saw what quick, slick, direct and forward looking passing can yield. No sideways passing today thank you very much. Just recycling and movement. We got our Arsenal back. Of course it helps that Man United are shit.


October 25th – Arsenal 0 Leicester City 1

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Awful Arsenal. It does get much crappier than this. We were awful awful awful. No ideas. No creativity. Arteta was awful. So were half the team. Ceballos barely touched the ball. Cigarette was awful. Bellerin was awful.

And our midfield was awful. No-one created anything. There was no creativity. No passion. No urgency. No ideas.

So depressing. This was an Emery like game. This was so worrying. For the first time in a year I felt like we had no clue. There was no idea here. No identify. The balance was awful. Celballos barely touched the ball. The only activity we had was on the left hand side.

It was sad and dispiriting. The passing was too slow. And it was all sideways. Their goalkeeper had but one save to make. We had nothing. It was all so boring and lacking in imagination.

And Arteta did not change it. You could see from a mile away that we had nothing today. Again, the midfield was non-existence. Pushing Ceballos off to the right did not work. Xhaka passed backwards. The only chances we created in the first half was from David Luiz.

And once he went off we created nothing. Nothing.

We are an average team with average players. We don’t nee Aubameyang. We can’t get him the ball. Why play Cigaratte when he’s like this. He was awful. Everything he did was wrong. His touch. His passing and lack of goals. He had nothing.

This was as bad a performance by the whole team as I can remember. We put them under no pressure. We did not even look like threatening for a goal. There was no drive.

I give up.

Fuck them all.

I had to watch 90 minutes of boring sideways passing. It was all Gabriel and Luiz passing. We never once played through their lines.

Which begs the question – what is Arteta playing at? Losing to Man City – albeit a crap ManCity – away is one thing. But playing like this against a depleted Leicester team is desperate. We were at home. And we created nothing. Nothing.

Sure, we scored in the first 5 minutes from a corner. It should not have been cancelled out. That was a bullshit call. OK, VAR sucks. We know that. And the ref was a wanker all game long. Giving stupid fouls against us all game long. But that’s not the reason we lost. We lost because we were monumentally shit.

We lacked spirit, energy and, most importantly, ideas. Their substitutes won them the game. Ours – Mustafi, forgot to cover Vardy. Xhaka lost his man. They played a forward pass to one of their own players – that’s a very novel concept. Shame we did not try that. They played within their shell. But once they decided to play they were much better than us. Aside from the monotonous sideways passing through to Pepe not being present even when he came on the pitch. Our most expensive signing comes one when we’re 1-0 down and is unable to contribute a single thing. Sure, against Sheffield United he saved us. But today he was as ineffectual as Cigarette. Next game please don’t play him. Put Aubemeyang in the middle. Play Saka again – he at least moves the ball forward. Tierney was fine today. He put in two crosses that neither Aubemeyang nor Cigarette could even get on target.

Today was the day we might just have realized – I might just have realized – how shit we are as a team. It seems that once we solve our defensive shape we lose all creativity. Except we did not keep a clean sheet. Arteta now has some serious work to do. He has some serious thinking to do about this team and his approach. Did he over complicate it today? Did he just get his tactics wrong. But what I don’t get was where was our fight? Why was there no reaction? Where is the leadership on this team. Maybe we have to wait another year or so before we can replace Xhaka, Mustafi, Cigarette, Bellerin and Pepe.

Also, note that we missed Luiz when he went off. And we were more vulnerable when Mustafi came on. We are missing Holding as well.

I never thought we’d win the league. But today we looked like a very solid, serious mid-table team. And it was so so fucking boring to watch. Tedious and dull. It’s not like we peppered their goal and had real chances. We were pedestrian and predictable. And boring.

Boring boring Arsenal. Two game in a row two 1-0 losses. No goals. And before that losing against Liverpool. We can’t play against good teams.

I’m so bored I can’t be fucked to diagnose this fiasco of a game. And next up we play away at Man United. And what team turns up there? Playing against a crap Man United team? And what accountability is there for performances? Does Cigarette start? I hope not. Who plays alongside Gabriel? I fear it will have to be Mustafi. This next game will show us what Arteta is about.  


October 17th – Man City 1 Arsenal 0

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The handbrake was definitely on. It seemed like we were too afraid to win. Too afraid of Man City. Too afraid.

Waiting two weeks and then sitting through that was enough to send me back to a deep slumber.

Of course, we are still way ahead of the low bar set by the previous accountant. Organizationally, we were well defined. We defended solidly. I really like Gabriel. David Luiz had a quite game on the right side and Tesco Tierney was challenged by Mahrez but handled him fairly well.

But we lacked any real creativity spark. Just the edge that the missing Ozil would have provided. It’s not clear that Willian contributed anything. Maybe that’s the job of the highest paid free agent. To remind us that Ozil can create. Because aside from a few forward passes from Zhaka and Ceballos we reverted to square and backwards passing. Even when we seemed to be about to counter-attack we quickly would withdraw into our conservative defensive shell. We were so respectful and fearful of them that we were incapable of putting them under sustained pressure. There were moments in the first half – both involving the wonderful Saka – but we lacked spark.

Two Pepe-like teams nullifying each other. Man City could have torn us apart if they had DeBruyne. Fortunately, they only had a half fit Aguerro. They started like a house on fire. But then once they took the lead they also started to play with the handbrake on. Sterling was tearing apart our defense.  Bellerin was positionally having a hard time. We devolved into the team that ground it out in the F. A. Cup. The progress of the last month or so seemed to evaporate under pressure. Even if we did stay well organized. David Luiz slotted in quite well; made no mistakes. We continued to force the play out from our defense. There were a few occasions when it worked. But too often there were limited options for the person on the ball. Neither Xhaka or Ceballos could receive the ball. Hence, we had little creativity.

There was a predictable, slow, methodical and tedious nature to our possession. Possession for the sake of it; possession without purpose. We barely created anything for Aubameyang. Pepe rarely received the ball. And, well, then there’s Willian. I don’t get what he was doing today. He was so poor that it made Pepe look good. To be fair Pepe worked much harder than previous games. But Willian looked lost. Cigarette must have been pissed to have been extinguished. I guess Arteta was thinking that Willian would pose a different sort of challenge. A more mobile, skillful player that dropped off and linked up play. Unfortunately, instead he looked lost and was irrelevant.

I felt for Xhaka today. He worked so hard. Chasing their players all round the pitch. Ceballos played deeper and had limited touches. The few times each of them managed to play the ball forward, they cut through the City defense. I have to think Arteta will look back at this game and realize he set the team up wrong. Willian was a mistake. And, though we were clearly worried about the City counter-attack, we barely threatened their vulnerable defense. We showed them too much respect. We were not aggressive enough. Even in those last twenty minutes we did not push or create enough. Finding that right balance is the elusive next step for Arteta.

I believe in Arteta, but today was not his best day. He will learn and adjust. I like that he would have started Holding. I like Gabriel. Tesco-boy is a player for the ages. Saka is a star. Today, with little support, he created two chances and demonstrated composure and skill. He is the player Pepe would love to be. In a few years he will be the mainstay of the crappy England team.

We did not seem desperate to win today. We seemed desperate not to get hammered. Others will go to City and will win. I can see Wolves and Everton taking the game to City. We refused to do that. Arteta needed to be braver.

Party got a few minutes and a yellow card. Nowhere near enough time to make any type of judgement. But it’s not clear why, for this game, he was brought on. Maybe it was to allow Ceballos to move further up field. But even then, little was created. I can’t remember Ederson making a real save in the 2nd half and especially not in the last 20 minutes. As they say, you can’t score if you don’t shoot (or head or…)

So, that was a disappointing performance. Underwhelming. It’s not the end of the world yet (that happens on November 3rd). It just reminds us how far we have to go. Arteta has had just one transfer window. He focused, rightly, on our defensive frailties. Gabriel and, now, Party have helped address that. But, we need another window or two to replenish our creative side. We need to be able to find that balance that has been missing for so long. Under Wenger, in his 2nd decade, it was all attacking play with no defense. Under the Emery it was all nothing; no defense, no personality and no attacking play. Now we have a defensive platform. It’s not perfect – it won’t ever be with Bellerin and he’s lack of positional awareness. He allowed Fodan too much room today. But, going forward Bellerin was better today. But the strength we have on the left is not matched on the right. Pepe was better today so let’s see how he evolves.

But having to sit thorugh the dull international break to come back to that is deflating. Luckily the games will come thick and fast now. There will be plenty more twists and turns. But as long as we have Arteta then I believe we will evolve and develop. And hopefully we’ll learn to be braver. We’ll learn to have more confidence in ourselves. Today was a day when we could have nipped a point if we had more self-belief.

A word on VAR. Bollocks. Luckily our game was VAR-less. But it really is a complete and utter travesty. There is no reasonable universe in which the Henderson goal can be ruled out for off-side. It’s a joke. A bad one indeed. Some knob sitting in a room hundreds on miles away gets out a ruler to measure a hairs-breath separation of a few atoms and electrons and decides that the arm-pit hair of one players is beyond the extended penis of another player.  Even if the body-part was two electrons closer to the goal, it was the arm – which I thought was not included as it has to be a part of the body that can be used to score a goal. Either way, VAR ruined the game. How they could not use it for dangerous play when Pickford clattered into Van Dyk is insulting. Where was the knob in the room then? This is the other problem with VAR. There is no accountability. No-one knows who this knob is. They don’t have to withstand the fans (I know – they will return), players, management, owners and the media. They work in silence accountable to who knows who. This system can’t work without transparency and accountability. It’s not the fault of the technology. It’s the fault of the referees and the EPL; they need to fix this. It was awful last year. And we know it needs time to get it right but this was embarrassing. Not in a million years would any fan (accept an Everton one) think that was off-side. What a fucking joke.


September 28th – Liverpool 3 Arsenal 1

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And I had thought we’d go through the season undefeated. How can we lose to such a lowly team as Liverpool? Devastating loss to a team in turmoil. If you can’t beat Liverpool at Anfield what chance is there for this club?

What did you expect? The players we have are not that different from those from last year. We started with Elneny and Xhaka in midfield. And yet, we stayed in this game for longer than I’d imagine. We kept the shape and the system in place for most of the game. Compared to prior years and the capitulation we’ve seen for so many years, this was, yet again, real progress. There are signs that we have a backbone.

This Liverpool team will murder so many teams this year. They are really quite impressive. There are very few weaknesses in that team. And yet, we could have drawn level if Cigarette would have lite up the net rather than bounce it off Allison. Of course, if Liverpool had taken all their chances they would have been well out of sight by then.

They are relentless, aggressive and talented. And we’re not. But then, 3 or 4 years ago they weren’t either. We can’t expect to be at their level. Not with some of the players we have. Arteta seems to have improved each player in the starting eleven perform better. That’s all he can do. But we need strengthening. Not in order to beat Liverpool but just in order to bolster this team. We need more competition in midfield. We need more creativity and we also need more defensive resolve. Declan Rice would be a nice fit 

Who would have predicted 2 months ago (or any time in the last three years) that Elneny would start at Anfield today. Not that he was too shabby and it’s not his fault we lost today. But it tells you something about the available talent as our disposal. Xhaka was pretty quiet today and maybe that’s because he was working so hard to defend. His forward pass that split their midfield helped create our goal. But thereafter, he was not able to contribute too much.

Maitland-Niles was just so hard-working again. He plays three positions simultaneously – a defensive wing-back, third full-back and attacking winger. Another impressive performance from him. He worked so hard to shut down Alexander-Arnold and nullify – as best anyone can – that threat. To think we might have sold him already. Give him another season to mature and develop a little more composure and he will become part of the backbone of this team.

Holding had his hands full with Mane; since leaving Southampton he has developed into a world class striker. He tormented Holding but Holding did really well against him. Holdings problem came with his poor distribution. But that’s usually because there were not sufficient options from his own players ahead of him. Elney and Xhaka rarely picked up the ball off the defense today. And that was dues to the relentless pressing we were under. There are very few teams as forceful and domineering as Liverpool – thankfully.

Willian was invisible today. A poor contribution but still superior than Pepe. For that second goal Willian should have been tracking back to mark Robertson. Though Bellerin was dragged into the middle too often for crosses, Willian should have done better. After that goal, Willian then did track back to defend another overlap. So maybe the lesson was learned.

Bellerin still suffers from position lapses; it’s a judgement issue with him. It’s not experience (or lack of) because he’s been around for long-enough. But then others – Luiz – suffer from this as well. He, in a homage to Mustafa, always attacked the play and is attracted to the ball. That’s what caused their first goal. He and Xhaka both fouled their players and got pulled out of position. Then Tierney got beaten on the inside. Today was not one of his best games for us. But then, again, the standard of the opposition will do that to you. I suspect we left Gabriel on the bench today because Arteta wanted Luiz’s distribution from the back to challenge the high-line of Liverpool. A number of his passes created some fear in their backline. Once with MN and then a few more with Willian. Unfortunately not too many for Aubameyang.

Aubameyang was very quiet today. He barely touched the ball. Most of his energy was spent chasing down their defenders and closing down their space. It’s not his fault. Only when Ceballos came on did we have some creative spark. That’s the reason why we need players in midfield with more diversity to their game. Who would have bet that it would be Xhaka to come off before Elneny? A fair decision based on performance but telling nonetheless. And, when they happened, we looked both sharper, more creative and yet more vulnerable to their counter-attack.

Pepe replacing Willian exposed both Bellerin and Holding. I’m really not sure this guy is ever going to make it in this league. As skillful as he is I doubt that he is physically tough enough (or mentally). Yes  he’s young so time is on his side but he’s been with us for a year now and I don’t see too much evolution. This game is much more physical than that in the French league. Against teams that give him space and sit back he’ll look excellent – against Crystal Palace or Newcastle. But against the better teams I doubt he’ll be able to contribute. That’s where we need Willian or an energized Nelson.

Overall, it’s hard to be too negative today. This is an impressive Liverpool team. We are clearly a work in progress. Arteta, yet again, deployed the right system, the right tactics thus allowing us to be competitive. Go back just a year and we would (if fact, were) demolished. This team is moving in the right direction. When you see the missteps (and luck) of a Chelsea and ManUnited, then there is an outside chance of the top four. But for that we need reinforcements. The defense if starting to take shape. Gabriel looks like a backbone addition to our team. We have enough center-halfs now. But, again, who would have predicted we could field such an organized and structure team without Guendouzi, Torreira and (even) Ozil? Three players who were central to the Emery (failed) era. We need to move them on so Arteta can restructure and continue the rebuild. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, he need 2+ transfer windows. He needs that balance of world-class players alongside our Hale End kids. He needs to maximize the opportunities for Aubameyang but having quality players unlock opposition defenses. Otherwise there was no point in re-signing our captain.

I remain relentlessly optimistic about this team now. Even though we lost, I have yet more belief in this manager and therefore this team. Even his after-match interview was reminiscent of the old days of Wenger. He was calm, rationale and realistic about the entire performance. He clearly understands our weaknesses and where we need to improve. We just need to give him the time and the players in order to do this.

I do wonder whether the lack of fans is helping Arteta. It removes the pressure from the players while they are having to make so many adjustments. And it allows him to instruct them from the sidelines without being drowned out by the noise. At this stage of both his career and at this stage of the team, that’s invaluable. And for the younger, less experienced players it allows them to play with less fear.

So, one more trip to Liverpool for the stupid Cup. I’ll watch it but really don’t care. Sunday versus Sheffield United is more compelling. This will be a chance to see whether we can create and dominate. Today was about defending and counter-attacking. Sunday will be completely different. It will be another opportunity to see some incremental progress. And that makes us worth watching again.


September 19th – Arsenal 2 West Ham United 1

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And he’s back. By popular demand. Welcome to the new world order. Welcome to the new season. A few weeks after the last one. Welcome to Artetas world. Arteta knows best. On F. A. Cup later; nearly a year removed from the accountant. Arsenal have a team. A style. And some points.

Though we weren’t as lucky as we were when we beat this lot 1-0 last season, we certainty should consider our selves fortunate. But 2 wins in two games. Not too shabby that. One Community Shield (which ranks even lower than the NoHoppa Cup) and the prized F. A. Cup.

So, its’ good-bye Emil. And please take Kolinsac with you on the way out please. How depressing to see him starting. Let’s hope Tesco-boy makes a rapid recovery. That it’s the same hip injury that he had at Celtic is worrying. We need him back. We can’t afford for him to be injury prone. We need for Kolinsac to return to the Bundesleague. Post his give-away against Sp*rs, I’d hope we’d seen the last of him. He is a disgrace, a disaster, a dumb, defensively demented dreadful defender. Let’s give him away. I’d pay to ship him. I’d buy his ticket (one-way, coach only – no luggage and no prebooked seat, preferably using the middle seat in the back-row right by the toilets with no inclining chair). So Kieran, please come back quickly. Before Oct 5th. We can’t get in the way of this transfer.

On the other side I’d snap off any hand that offered in excess of £25 for Hector. Sure we should give him time to receive from his ACL. He’s one of more interesting personalities with many thought out perspectives and opinions. But on the pitch I’m not sure he’ll ever develop that much more. With Holding playing behind him it’s not surprising that both last week and this week, our creative play happens down the left.

And Holding, another lovable player, does not seem like he has the pace to be part of our long term defensive needs. We need him this year. Just until the new French kid learns to tie his own shoe-laces and is allowed out at night (unaccompanied).

That just leaves our new Brazilian. Two games in and you have to think we’ve caught a good one. Assured and technical with just a touch of physicality, Gabriel could be part of our defense for many years. Dare I say he has a Koscielny like presence about him. He could be our own Van Gabriel. And he’s young. He is certainly no Sokratis nor the much missed Mustafa. This one is a keeper (well, a center-half actually).

Next week the real opposition turn up. We will have to revert to our F. A. Cup winning strategy. Everyone behind the ball, hunker-down and wait for the counter-attack. And by then, hopefully, we’d have consigned Kolinsac to the road-side pickup. TO be placed is some smelly, dumpster.

I’m also wondering whether Pepe might be headed in the same direction. Willian was not as involved today – it’s hard when you’re playing in front of Hector. But he’s still superior to Pepe. Even when he came on for 15 minutes, he still failed to get past WHU full-backs. He still looks all flair and no substance. A luxury player who will score third goal in a 3-0 victory but never the goal to turn a loss into a draw or a draw into a win. Unlike young Eddie. Hard working and purely opportunistic. Less gifted but more effective. Right place at the right time. Our own little fox-in-the-box. Remember that obsession over a decade or so ago? Only took us 20 years to replace Franny Jeffers. But Eddie is not as ugly and way more effective.

That’s two goals on the bounce for Cigarette. Someone has lite him up in front of goal. But, overall, I thought his contribution was pretty weak today. Too often he under hit his passes or failed to take the chances he was presented with. Not that they were clear cut but each time he’s need one too many touches. But he scored so, thank you nonetheless.     

It’s was good to see Saka back on the left. He is a bright spark and clearly part of our long-term solution. WHU did an effective job in closing down his space today but he still worked hard, defended well and attempted to create. Overall, our creative play was too slow and too square. Both goals involved Saka. The few times we played vertical not horizontal. It’s no coincidence both goals involved him and came down the left.

Xhaka was not at his best today. Too many errant passes. Too many times nearly getting caught in possession. Against a better team that will be punished. But, thankfully, it was only West Ham. Ceballos and he did not create enough and should have increased the tempo of the game. But, again, Ceballos, was involved in the winning goal. He works so much harder than he did under our prior Accountant.

Two wins now, two more than this time last year. And we have a shape, a set of tactics. And, more importantly, a manager. Not a coach. But a manager. We lost Raul. We lost Ivan. And we lost our accountant. But we gained a manager. We find the soul of our club. We finally had a direction. A purpose. Something to believe in. And a trophy. Someone we managed to dodge abject failure last season. Qualifying for Europe was a minor miracle. And given what we were like up to November, thoroughly undeserved. But it was a live-saver. It meant we could keep our talisman, our leader and the future golden boot winner, Aubameyang. I remember when we signed him, scratching my head wondering why we needed another striker when we already had Cigarette. But after more or less singlehandedly winning the semi-final and then final in addition to his countless goals, it’s clear it was mandatory that we could keep him. No more Van Persie departures of a captain. And, again, step forward MA to accept the plaudits for that.

This is all part of the resurrection of Arsenal. The rebuild is well in hand. This year won’t take us to the promised land. But within a couple of more transfer windows we will be there; back competing for the premiership with Man City and Crystal Palace; world beating Crystal Palace! Arteta needs time. It’s a wonder what he’s achieved with so little. That midfield needs a rework though. A box to box midfielder. Some more creativity. And a real defensive midfield player. Ideally all wrapped up in one player.

Torreira seems headed for the exit. I always enjoyed watching him play. Emery killed this guy. Confidence is fragile. And for a period, he was that dominant defensive midfield player. Our little Kante. Until Emery bore him to death with his numbers and spreadsheets. And know, with the more technical approach of MA, he’s not going to cut it. The few times he played, his link-up play and distribution were exposed. But I also felt he was trying too hard. He’d lost his way, his confidence and therefore dashed around too much and was a little out of sorts. He needs a stable, consistent run in a team to rediscover his ability. He’s just not going to get that at Arsenal. And we could do with some filthy luca – we need the money.

I am an optimist by nature. Or just simple in the head. Maybe the latter is a requirement for the former. Either way, I’m am optimistic about our future. Whereas under the accountant I was always looking for signs of progress and development, some indication we were moving in the right direction. Under Arteta I know. He is the one. If I honestly had to rank the best PL managers I’d start with Klop then Pepe followed by Arteta; I’m that optimistic. With the youth coming through and the cleaning out of the dross (Kolinsac, Ozil etc) we have a bright future. But that means we also have to be a little patient. We were fortunate to grab the three points today (though last season we would have found a way to lose).  Next week will demonstrate how much further we have to develop. But we know that. We are not at the level where we can really compete; remember it took Klopp five years. We need three years. This season will, at times, test our resolve. We will find ways to throw away points; we will be outclassed by the best teams. But, as we proved at the end of last season, we will compete and fight. We will have the right tactics even if we don’t have the right players. Yet. But we have the right manager.

Oh it’s good to be back


July 12th – Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1

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Three wasted points. Three abysmal defenders. Three players to replace. From the first minute when David Luiz lost the ball by being too slow in his decisions through the last minute of Mustafi going to ground with Kane, we only saw what we’ve all known all year long. Our defense is as supportable as fat man Trump; it’s as reliable as the White House protecting people from Covid19. How bad is our defense? It’s so bad that Mustafi was the best defender today.

Though we did not exactly learn anything new, it’s still shocking to see the mental weakness and flat out stupidity of Kolinsac. To be fair to him he has been a walking disaster all season. Yet he finds way to plumb new depths. His distribution against Leicester was crap but today it was beyond intolerable. Two minutes after a glorious Cigarette strike gives us the (deserved) lead, to make a weak, aimless pass that wrong foots David Luiz is beyond professional incompetence.

Since the restart I have finally become convinced that this team is moving in the right direction. We have seen significant improvements. We have seen confirmation that we unquestionably have the right manager. Finally, after the idiot Emery, we have someone who can build this team and resurrect this club. The performances has demonstrated progress and identity. We’ve been fortunate to reduce the leakage in goals and Martinez has been a revelation. But, we have consistently seen a sloppiness and lack of focus from all three defenders. And today it cost us a game we deserved to win.

We played better than them and had enough chances to take the lead. Today we paid the price for Aubamyeng missing too many chances he would normally score from. In truth, when we needed our captain the most, this was his weakest performance. Too often he would refuse to make forward wide runs to stretch their defense – which had both full backs on yellow cards. Conversely, Cigarette had one of his best games for many months. Even beyond his wonder strike, his link-up play and positioning were excellent. He set up Aubaeyang who failed to convert his chances. Amusingly, their captain today was also shit. Their main man looked off the pace and had a handful of chances – care of our inept defense – to score and fluffed his lines.  We also suffered today because Pepe was back to his old form. There are moments of brilliance but it still looks like the pace of the EPL and the physicality is too much for him. I wish we had brought on Saka earlier. The change in the speed of thought and passing was immediate. Both Aubameyang and Pepe refused to turn up field and take on their men today.

Overall though this team looks much improved. There was a real balance in midfield. Not perfect but Ceballos and Xhaka dominated this game. This was another improved performance from Ceballos. At this rate we need to retain him. He created more chances, worked harder, won tackles and kept the ball moving so much quicker than in the past. Xhaka has proven to be the backbone of this team. Since his return to the starting eleven we have looked like a real team. There is no way we win at Wolves without Xhaka. Today they dominated Sp*rs. They were helped by the wing-backs. Tierney is a star in the making and is a sharp contrast to Pepe. Half the price and twice as good. And on the other side Bellerin continues to show improvement. His distribution – unlike a certain other player – was much improved. I have been very critical of Hector latterly but he has built on the improvement from Leicester and was much more creative today.

We had our chances today but failed to convert. Fine. But how can you speak to the defense? Sp*rs we’ve given all their chances. Whilst watching I had said, with about 15 minutes left, how Mustafi had been the only defender to not make stupid mistakes but that you knew he would eventually. Then in the space of 10 minutes he impersonates Kolinsac, diving in unnecessarily, losing possession and over committing on Kane. We have come to expect this though. It’s a shame, because for the first 80 minutes, he was solid (aside from his long-ball passes with are like a random spray-gun). More often than not, Ceballos or Xhaka would pick the ball up from the defense and then build play up from there. These two were passing the ball quicker and playing through the lines. On the other hand when David Luiz has the ball at his feet he was sluggish and too slow in his distribution. Whereas Kolinsac can only pass sideways and backwards – and to the other team.

Another moment on Martinez though. What a great performance. Beyond the wonder save from Davies, he denied Sp*rs on multiple occasions. In the first minutes when we gave the ball away and then Kane tried to lob him to multiple saves from Kane and Son. I really doubt that Leno would have done better.

Where does this leave us? Mightily pissed that we lost to a team that is just not as good as us. But if I had to choose, irrespective of our current league position, which team looked like it had the bright future I would pick AFC. Sure, I thought his substitutions today were too late and not effective – Saka should have come on earlier for Pepe. But the style of play, the width of the wing-backs, the arrival of Tierney and Saka and the emergence of Ceballos is refreshing. For the first time in 18 months since Wenger retired (or was pushed out) I feel like we’re finally functioning as a team. We have an identity. And we know our problems. We have know this for too long. But Arteta can’t fix that – yet. He needs a transfer window. He needs some time. He has made, as much as I hate to acknowledge it, Mustafi better. No-one though can make Kolinsac better.

Today was a wasted opportunity. The three points were there for us. But, like the Brighton game, we found a way to give it to them. It’s not like, in either game, the other team earned it. We gave it to them.  This game is not too complicated, Attackers should score – we did that today. Midfields should both create and protect – we did that today. And defenders should defend. Think about how often Sp*rs actually created chances by themselves? Most of their chances came from us giving the ball away cheaply. No team can survive like that.

The last few games raised the European hopes again and today crushed them. But not because we were outplayed by a better team. But because we are mentally frail and have inadequate defenders. The question becomes, in the midst of a financial meltdown – minus match day revenues and European football – whether we will have sufficient money to buy the replacements we need. For sure, we will dump Kolinsac. As a left-footed player, I swear I would be an improvement over him – and a lot cheaper.

Even in defeat though I come away optimistic about so many parts of this team. We need another year to complete the re-build. But, finally, I believe we have the right manager in place. If you had to choose between the two managers on display today it’s pretty clear we’ve got the better one. If you created a joint team from today most of their players would get into that team but yet we should have won todays’ game. It was a painful and excruciating to watch the headless, dumb way we threw away these points. But I’m convinced these are just bumps in our upward trajectory. Not this season. But for next. We should have locked up our NoHoppa Cup position. But Brighton and today have ruined that. There is still the F. A. Cup. But I think you have to win it to qualify. It’s not enough to lose in the final anymore. But that’s beyond us at the moment.

This is not to say we won’t get murdered by Liverpool. But there is enough progress here for us to believe we have turned the corner. Today we out played Sp*rs, we controlled the game and played better football. But until we remove our back three they will continue to be like a dead weight around our necks. There is something holding Holding back. Because I would play him over either Kolinsac or myself. I would love to see that change for Wednesday. Because, after today, Kolinsac, can’t play for Arsenal again.

– LB7