Four’s a crowd

Hi again, dear reader, from one of the most un-kept-up-to-date Arsenal blogs around

Hi again, dear reader, from one of the most un-kept-up-to-date Arsenal blogs around. Last time I was here I was writing about a horrible loss for Arsenal and pondering the impact on the sad end to the Wenger era.

Some years on, we’re in the midst of a totally bizarre pandemic with Arteta (or at least his younger squad members) leading a surge in form. Form which could be an exciting new beginning should another lockdown not gazump football for the foreseeable.

I’ve never claimed to have insider knowledge into the club, and I don’t, but nor do I need it to see what a bit of enthusiasm and effort brings to a team bereft of ideas and impetus. A Martinelli showing shades of Alexis, a Saka on the road to a POTY perhaps, an ESR proving genuine workrate and willing can trump √Ėzil’s tweeted charm offensive.

All of these are things to be celebrated, as is the absolute worldie of a goal, for a left-back, of Tierney against West Brom (*cough*, 4-0 Sam). And did I celebrate! Bouncing on the sofa with a pumped fist to the bemusement of the dog: “WHAT A GOAL”, before attempting to sound completely chill on Twitter.

The Arsenal are fun again, bringing joy, and more importantly, wins to our lives. And that we have a solid if uninspiring CB pairing in Holding and Mari is wonderful. Let them be our solid if uninspiring CBs, and continue to be solid to undo the un from the inspiring. Utterly solid CBs is what we deserve, after a cocktail of Mustafi, Sokratis and Luiz.

There’s the beginning of a solid back four or five in place it seems. Could be, may just be, and well done for Arteta for doing whatever it is he’s doing to help turn the form around. He’s doing something surely. Hopefully for Runarsson too: give him soime love and some bigger gloves.

Fun times

This 1992-1993 table shows the formative Prem – a wild, wild place

I know, I know, this season hasn’t been the best despite our recent uptick in form. But the league is enjoyable, no? From 4th to 12th, the difference is six points as I type.

And although I’d rather we hadn’t have flirted shamelessly with the bottom of table this season, the closeness of the league takes me back to the 92/93 era of Ipswiches and Sheffield Wednesdays in the Prem. Villa coming 2nd, the almost mythical Norwich of Gunn, Fox, Ekoku and Sutton playing wonderfully.

QPR! QPR finished 5th – it wasn’t a happy time for us in 10th, but boy I loved that season. I was 10 and Arsenal were wonderful, if a bit naff, and then some years later a Frenchman arrived.

Anyway, I hope we continue to climb, but the closeness of the league adds some enjoyment in the absence of the throbbing throng of crowd community.

Mob mentality

It’s not all fun and games though. If as a professional football club your social media team calls out a pundit, an excellent pundit, like Karen Carney purely for stating her opinion…it lacks class.

Here’s my view on that whole horrible saga. Needless from LUFC’s social media peeps really – especially given the clear amount of bigots who also sadly follow football and have access to a public platform to hurl abuse in the pile-on.

Having deleted her account, I hope Carney returns – or at least doesn’t have the episode prevent her from doing her job just as earnestly.

Anyway, best to you and yours in these trying times. See you again. Here’s hoping for more Tierney-time and hopefully a bit of Partey at the weekend against Newcastle.

That is, assuming football doesn’t leave us like it did in 2020. Please, no.

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The Road to Nowhere?

“I’ve no idea where we’re going…”

Hi. How are you…?

I mean I hope you’re okay.

Me? I feel a bit weird.

Not the “we’ve just been hammered by a super club and weren’t we supposed to become one of those?” type of weird…although you know, we were supposed to be able to compete. Nor is it the “wow, this is a bit of deja-vu; betcha we win the second-leg 3-0 but¬†still go out in the last 16 of the Champions League…again” type weird.

No the weird I’m feeling today is a bit of a mourning, achey, near-hollow weird. And I’ve not felt like this before with Arsenal. In fact I’ve not felt it at all since 1996. That year I felt this similar sort of feeling when England were knocked out of the European Championship. And, I suppose oddly, that year Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury.

So this feeling then.

I only feel it when I think about Arsenal, and I’m not sure what to do with it. I mean, I’ve spent a good few years now detaching the impact of Arsenal losses and dismal displays from my actual life. And it’s worked a treat: When we win that’s good (obviously), and when we win well I layer that buoyancy upon my mood. Because revel? Yes please. Yet when we lose I habitually feel disappointed for a little bit, disconnect from it and get on with my day.

I love football and I love Arsenal, but it isn’t my whole life. I appreciate that’s a personal view – I’m no longer a season ticket holder an don’t travel overseas – but I decided years ago that generating extreme emotional turmoil from football on a regular basis probably wasn’t great for me. So there we are, each to their own.

Except: last night. That 5-1 loss felt like a fresh, sharp, serious pain. One laced in a gloom that couldn’t easily be tuned¬†out, and one that needs serious attention. It hurt more than Henry, Cesc or van Persie leaving. It hurt more than the 2011 8-2 loss at Old Trafford.

It hurt so deeply I could instantly recall the¬†grief I used to feel at a cup exit or a heavy loss. At the dashing of expectation. At England’s defeat in 1996, when nothing felt like it could be the same after for England or the football-focused world of a 12 year-old.

That 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich? It hurt cumulatively.

What that might mean for Arsenal, for Arsene Wenger, or even for this team ¬†in the next fixture I’ve no idea. Whether Arsene felt the weight of that loss in a more¬†acute way than any other…I’ve no idea. And whether we’ll be saying goodbye to him come the end of the season I’ve no idea.

Making predictions one way or the other seems fruitless. But to me it felt like one heavy defeat too far. One negative mark too many against the legacy of Wenger’s Arsenal. One brittle capitulation¬†too spectacular for my optimism towards the rest of this season.

What comes next? I’ve no idea. Something has to change, it seems. To feel like¬†I felt 21 years is an odd thing. But I don’t know what that means or where we’re going.

I do, though, feel unbelievably sad.

Four things increasingly clear to Arsenal fans

Recent results and the fall from Festive grace have given Arsenal fans more than enough pause for thought. So with uncertainty about Arsene Wenger’s (and his squad’s) ability to now deliver, here are four things increasingly obvious to the concerned observer.

Joel Campbell should start

Not a difficult idea to support, given the Costa-Rican’s steady – if not Bellerin/Coquelin-style – rise to necessity. Campbell was far and away the best player for Arsenal against Swansea; passing, moving, linking and scoring with the easy confidence that comes from wanting to make a difference and deliver on promise.

Does Campbell have the hunger Alexis has claimed is lacking in the squad? It would seem so. He’s clearly enjoying his football. And he’s been given hope by the perpetually plateaued stock of Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as the ineffective wing displays of Theo Walcott. Campbell is a natural right midfielder/winger, and currently Arsenal’s most technically suited player in the role.

Alan Shearer is right on Giroud

Some may scoff at Shearer’s occasionally inflexible, blanket comments wrapped up as Match of the Day insight. However, when the Premier League’s record goalscorer said Giroud should score 20-25 goals in the league in this Arsenal team, he was right. It may not be in the way he intended, but he gets some credit.

Many Arsenal fans have gone along with Wenger’s hypothesis of sharing goals around the squad. They’ve bought into the possession-based attacking ‘system’ developed over two decades. The system birthed the “play the Arsenal way” slogan, and sharing goals does make some sense. After all, if a star player is injured, a team that can score goals without them can avoid¬†a goal drought.

The issue though is whether sharing goals is an effective strategy. Barcelona certainly share goals, but each of Neymar, Suarez and Messi have scored enough to be considered the main striker at any top European club in their own right.

Yet the last time Arsenal won the league, in 2003-4, goals weren’t shared around nearly as much as we might think they were. Yes there were 15 different goalscorers that season in all competitions, but in the league Robert Pires scored 14, and Ljungberg (4), Bergkamp (4) and Gilberto Silva (4) chipped in.

The main goal threat was of course Thierry Henry, with 30 goals in 37 appearances. Arsenal shared goals, but Henry enabled that team to finish the season champions with a +47 goal difference, ten more than second placed Chelsea.

If we look at how shared goals impact the current season, Leicester are top and it’s mainly through goals from Vardy (19), Mahrez (14), and Okizaki (4). Tottenham, in second, have scored through Harry Kane (16), Alli (7), Eriksen (5) and a smattering of other scorers.

If we compare this to¬†Arsenal, it’s Giroud (12), Sanchez (6), √Ėzil (5), Ramsey (4) and Walcott (4). Goals are being shared in a not dissimilar way to 2003-4, but…Giroud as the main striker needs to score more. Not necessarily the 30 goals of Henry, but keeping pace with Vardy’s conversion rate¬†seems reasonable.

Yet in this Arsenal team, sharing goals around may not even be a bad idea if collective finishing could be considered clinical:¬†This Sky Sports graphic suggests that three of Arsenal’s key attacking threats can all do better.


How “big chances” are qualified is a fair question, but it’s hard to deny that Walcott, Giroud and Sanchez have failed to ignite in front of goal. They’ve so far failed to deliver Kane, Vardy or Mahrez consistency, let alone anything near Henry.

Wenger’s system is stuttering

What Arsene Wenger’s system actually is is a huge topic of debate. Many fans¬†are¬†stumped, and (judging by the team’s performances) it seems that the squad may be too. Players are failing to respond to instruction, or at the very least are failing to find consistency in a season where key absences (Sanchez, Coquelin, Cazorla, Welbeck, and now Cech), may have¬†played a part.

In times of absence, it is the strength of a system and the manager’s ability to instil it which should shine through. But with one of the ‘strongest’ squads in recent times, Arsenal’s¬†system is anything but clear. In fact, it is increasingly hard to work out who Wenger sees as his settled, preferred, line up to deliver regular title-worthy performances. The manager also seems to make what many think of as reactive tactical decisions, and¬†so the frustration grows.

A fine example: the boos when Joel Campbell was taken of against Swansea has served as the peak of this melancholia. Wenger’s defence of this action, suggesting Welbeck could provide more runs in behind the Swansea defence, has largely been¬†railroaded perhaps because Campbell was one of the best-performing technical players on the pitch.

What it comes down to is this: At one time Wenger’s system was clear, and it depended on technique, on crafty possession and technical ball players. It was a system characterised by the types of action Campbell was pulling off in the game, and was a system loved for its fluidity and technical level.

Campbell’s removal had a clear adverse affect on the team’s performance, but perhaps it also marked a desperate deviation from this long-standing system. This is a new thread too, because¬†if Arsenal have previously depended on technical ball players, as Tim Stillman has pointed out, there’s currently a clear lack:

Arsene Wenger’s time may be at an end

For a while now the WOB (Wenger Out Brigade) and WKBs (Wenger Knows Best) have been locked in a semi-aggrandised ideological back and forth. Yet the fact that Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal now seems under threat, comes from many fans failing to see how the manager can turn things around.

With no obvious system or clear response to trailing at home to Swansea, the heat is on to provide a good performance and start from there.¬†Yet in a season where the other ‘big clubs’ have faltered, Arsenal could, and perhaps should, have reached the summit of the Premier League and already be cementing their position as potential champions.

That Arsenal are now part of the chasing pack needs¬†a speedy resolution. One to boost fans and¬†Wenger’s own position. A win against Tottenham could be a start, but right now it’s looking sadly stark.

Let down

In the post-match conference from last night, a defensive Wenger blamed a lack of quality in the team’s “defensive concentration”.

It really is¬†the major reason¬†for conceding three against an Olympiakos team seeing only 30% possession.¬†We did too little with what we had –¬†18 shots to their 9, 9 on target to their 4. 8 corners to their 4¬†– but it was errors that cost us.

Arsenal 0-1 Olympiakos

Olympiakos’ first came from a corner. As it’s taken, Pardo is free on the edge of the box. It’s a fairly standard position to be in, but apparently not worthy of picking him up. As the ball swings to the edge of the area, Mesut √Ėzil sort of follows and then gives up on the ball. He doesn’t even appear to look at Pardo, or attempt to engage any player the ball might be going to.


Pardo makes a fairly clean¬†effort which shouldn’t really trouble Ospina, but it deflects off a hapless Ox and finds the net. Oxlade-Chamberlain either realises too late the ball is coming his way, or fails to properly attempt a block of his own.

Either way it’s a poor set of circumstances to concede from. Really poor.

By this point we’d had two good chances. Theo found himself in the box, but failed to adjust his body (use his left-foot) and generate power to get a clean shot away. Chamberlain too found himself in the area and could have made it 1-0, but under pressure put wide from a position to the right of the goal.

The response from Theo was heartening, if a tad fortunate, and we deserved to be on level terms.

Arsenal 1-2 Olympiakos

Olympiakos’ second can be blamed on Ospina, but it’s a clear misjudgement of the kind that¬†can happen (see Ronaldinho against Seaman, WC 2002).¬†Ospina’s¬†strength is in staying on the line, using his reflexes and his reading of an attack as it unfolds. He doesn’t tend to come and dominate the box in a set-piece situation, and here we see why.

In this incident he moves early, the power and height on the corner suggesting it’s a deep, high-hanging ball which he can get up and claim.¬†There’s wicked curl though, and he’s caught out. He jumps back to try and salvage the situation and fails.

We can’t be entirely sure the ball crossed the line, because for some reason there’s no goal-line technology in the UCL. Still, he was punished. Cech may not have made the error, may not have shown this lack of “defensive concentration”, but it’s a moot point if Cech had a slight issue preventing him starting.

Ospina’s played well for us generally, kept a good deal of clean sheets last season, and has incredible reflexes and great on-the-line shot stopping. But yes, it’s clear where he needs to improve.

We equalise again through Sanchez. It’s interesting to note a couple of things here.

Not only is Sanchez apparently back on form, and that’s his second header in as many games, he nearly scores another later. Also the cross for this goal¬†is from Walcott. Theo’s taken up a position just inside the right edge of the¬†18 yard box, in an area of the pitch more akin to a winger feeding a natural centre forward.

Alexis confidently heads home and it leaves me wondering if, even though Walcott is progressing “game by game”, the better option up top (when without Giroud) is actually¬†Alexis Sanchez –¬†especially against teams sitting back.

Sanchez possesses a clear poaching ability Walcott has yet to muster, and has superior feet and body adjustment in tight spaces.

He also makes up for a¬†lack of size in playing with his back to goal through intelligent movement. His shots closer to goal appear instinctive too…but more on that another time.

 Arsenal 2-3 Olympiakos

Defensive indiscipline again. As we chase to take the lead,¬†de Freita Couto J√ļnior beats both Ramsey and Bellerin far too easily. At this point Finnbogason is being marked by Gabriel, but as the ball is cut back past Cazorla (somewhere in no-man’s-land) and in-field to Fortounis, Gabriel leaves Finnbogason to charge Fortounis.

The shot is blocked by Mertesacker, but as it comes out to Cambiasso, Ramsey, Cazorla, Mertesacker Gabriel and Gibbs ALL run out towards him. This leaves Pardo and Finnbogason both unmarked on the right in space.ARSvOLY 3

Gibbs tries to adjust his feet and make Cambiasso take the shot, but as Cambiasso chips the ball over his head Gibbs is forced to turn and chase Pardo, while Finnbogason goes square six yards form goal and behind the Arsenal line.

Pardo finds Finnbogason, who taps the ball past Ospina. Mertesacker gets back but does nothing of note to try and stop the shot other than being right next to Finnbogason.

It’s terrible, and fitting perhaps that such a lack of¬†defensive concentration should result in the winning goal. Olympiakos didn’t deserve the win based on the Arsenal dominance borne out by the stats. But then, we most certainly didn’t deserve it based on the above defensive frailties. Olympiakos for their part were stoic at the back…although we certainly had enough quality to beat them if only we didn’t self-sabotage.

A lack of leadership is one of the louder criticisms being levelled at the squad today. The charge being that strong characters of the likes of Vieira haven’t been seen for some time. Falmini may have offered that had he been on the pitch, but¬†it’s a point worth pondering.

Still, we can’t magic such characters into the squad, and against United on Sunday we’ll likely need it. So here’s at least hoping our quality going forward is matched by a more stable defensive display.

Arsenal ready to put things right…
By Kevin Hackert – Used (unedited) under Creative commons license

A 5-2 win and we couldn’t have asked for much more. Saturday’s victory¬†over unbeaten Leicester saw the wish list perfectly met: three points, a Giroud goal, a rampant¬†Alexis, tamed tempers and a solid balance.

A game of counter attacks¬†was won out by¬†a team displaying superb technical ability (and¬†fitness) and it’s easy to see what the boss meant post-game when he said “we’re coming back our best”.

Conceding two goals clearly isn’t ideal. Yet, without being too school-of-Keegan, if you’re going to score five then the two isn’t usually problematic. We know defensive consistency is something Wenger will be just as keen to work towards as attacking prowess, and clean sheets do breed defensive defiance.

Anyway, more thoughts on various things to come before the weekend,¬†but immediately we’ve tonight to think about.


A home-tie against Olympiakos seems a good way to get back on track in Europe. It really should take some kind of disaster to be as poor as we were in¬†Zagreb – and by know means do I want that. Seemingly even Munich’s Philipp Lahm (according to the¬†Express) found our opening result shocking:

The defeat of Arsenal in Zagreb really surprised me. At first I thought it was a mistake.

Unfortunately not, and it¬†means another¬†must win game against another ‘unbeaten’ team. Olympiakos sit top of the Greek Super League with five wins from five, although the 3-0 UCL Matchday¬†1 loss to Bayern may¬†sow some doubt in Greek minds. Bayern held 71% possession and had 22 shots at goal, so if we ramp up the pressure we might start to see some similar cracks.

We’ll need to capitalise on those, but just how we’re going to break through the¬†Erythrolefkoi could be telling for the remainder of the season. In the Champions League most teams arrive to play. Undoubtedly Olympiakos will be looking for defensive discipline, and that could make at least Walcott’s night a little tricky.

Against Leicester, Theo found runs in behind a rather high line, making runs off the shoulder; a situation the Foxes seemed happy to accept¬†until we showed second-half dominance. Okazaki came off for King to bolster Leicester’s midfield, and their defence dropped deeper to nullify Walcott’s pace. Giroud still offers a better outlet up top against a sat back four – and was duly sent on at the weekend – but with Frenchman is of course suspended tonight.

Walcott will start then, but his pace may have to be attuned to short sharp bursts of a few yards to gain maximise space away from defenders,¬†with either single touches to set or immediate shots. It’s something the best strikers can call on, and if he wants to develop fully in the role he’ll need¬†nights like tonight to¬†hone his skills.

A lack of striking options means the obvious replacement for Walcott if needed is Sanchez. Few will have issue with that after he lit up the King Power, and needless to say the goalscoring burden isn’t Walcott’s or Sanchez’ alone. An dangerous front four seems much more likely this time out. √Ėzil and Ramsey would love to find the net, and with the Ox still waiting to find true form off the bench, there’s plenty to be¬†hopeful about.

In other areas the whispers are that Ospina will start. Arseblog¬†ponders a Cech injury but, while that could be the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the competition between the Czech and Columbian is a little bit closer than many consider. Gabriel is available, but the only other¬†obvious change to Saturday’s strarting XI can come in midfield. With Arteta and Flamini out, the Coquelin and Cazorla core seems certain.

Our central midfield options have been analysed to the Nth degree, but Cazorla especially benefits from Coquelin alongside him. Coquelin provides more athletic, lateral defensive cover than Flamini and Arteta, and allows the Spaniard greater vertical movement to drive our play up the pitch and away from the defensive third. This was epitomised by the 2-0 against¬†Manchester City in January. Cazorla was the stand-out player, but Coquelin wasn’t far behind.

Focus again then will be heightened as to how we manage our own game, as well as that of our opposition. Honestly I think we can allow ourselves some confidence, just as long as the team has shaken off those zagreb zeds.

5 things Arsenal need from their trip to Leicester

Arsenal members day 2015 - copyright JoshJdss, used under Creative Commons license.
Arsenal members day 2015 – copyright JoshJdss, used under Creative Commons license.

Yet to enjoy any kind of form this season, talk of the title has all but dissolved. Arsenal have¬†a record of LWDWWL in the Premier League, and face a Leicester side unbeaten in the competition¬†since April 30th. The mood has been¬†brightened by a win over Spurs,¬†but it’s back to business on a faltering season. Here are the five things Arsenal need from Saturday’s game.

1. Any win

It goes without saying, but¬†it almost doesn’t matter how. A good performance might be the¬†elixir sought, but the three points are crucial. Grinding out the victory – in the way Chelsea are often¬†praised for¬†– would be just as effective.

The three points would certainly offer belief looking towards the Olympiacos and Man Utd games, plus toppling the Premier League form team¬†is hardly a pyschological¬†springboard to be turning noses up at. A bore draw until the last minute of injury time, and a Chambers own-goalward shot deflecting the length of the pitch to win it? Well, it’d still be three points.

2. A working balance

As the rotated rotate again, we’ll be seeing the return of Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal and √Ėzil.¬†Add to that likely starts for Sanchez, Ramsey and, in the absence of Coquelin and Cazorla, a possible central midfield duo (in any variation) of two of Arteta, Flamini¬†and Ramsey. Flamini may get the nod after midweek heroics – emotional control and heart¬†abound. If not, Arteta and¬†Ramsey may go central with Oxlade-Chamberlain placed on the right.

**Edit** – Cazorla will be available, so it’s a tricky choice! (Thanks @dartfordgooner).

Whatever the variations, you’d imagine the team needs to exude stability and control for the win. A squad like ours will rotate, but it’s cohesion in spite of those changes which is required.A back line of Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Monreal, is undoubtedly the strongest available to us. Yet defending as a team will put the spotlight on Sanchez and Chamberlain tracking back when required. It will also highlight the relationship between the two central midfielders and the defensive line, making the selection particularly interesting as well as integral to finding our team¬†rhythm.

3. Giroud Goals

Olivier Giroud works hard, but is considered to¬†take criticism to heart and generally he fails to react with immediate positivity on the pitch. Getting on the scoresheet can only help the Frenchman lift himself from a malaise which seems to have entrenched him since being booed by France fans. It’s a clear contrast to Walcott, who seems in possession of endless reserves of mild ego, appearing¬†ignorant of anything less than the¬†full backing of everyone.

Giroud could do with a shot of that, but more importantly a goal to lift his head and hopes. As one of only two regular forward options until Welbeck’s return, Giroud needs to keep up the likes of his first-half display against Spurs for the full time he’s on the pitch. Winning headers, making runs,¬†and good interplay can result in a goal or two – or a winner – which may be the jolt he needs.

4. Emotional control

Balance, goals and the victory are the main things any Gunner would want this weekend, but this theme of the last fortnight – thanks to the team’s poor disciplinary antics and…Jose Mourinho – is also essential. We need to work hard, play fair, and avoid being sucked into emotionally compromising situations. That is, not do anything which might result in a reckless dismissal.

To be fair, meetings with Leicester are hardly tetchy and the last fixture yielded a not-unheard-of five yellows. Still, all games have the potential for flashpoints, and the manner of response is down to individual players in the heat of the moment. An opportunity to ensure tame tempers is one the team could do with taking.

5. Star success

As much as pinning hopes on individual players is an exercise in ignoring team ethic, the combined ¬£63 million spent on Mesut √Ėzil and Alexis Sanchez inevitably means some expectation. In the past, a tie against Leicester may have provided an opportunity for the pair to masterfully¬†strut their stuff.

As it stands though, both German and Chilean have failed to ignite so far, and for either to do against this Leicester team could help the team regain its zeal. Sanchez certainly added some zip when introduced from the bench at White Hart Lane. And more of that might be a sign his busy Summer/rushed return has laid low the last of its effects.

It’s not all on them of course. There’s the potential for improvements across the team, and nobody would begrudge a Chamberlain, Walcott, Ramsey, Koscielny, Cech or any other kind of master-class this week.

Yet the main thing Arsenal¬†need is a win against a very good team…and hopefully that (and some of the above) can lessen the sting of recent league events.

Some Chelsea thoughts

How many chances does a guy get?

If you were Diego Costa Saturday, more than deserved. If you were Gabriel, more will come. And if you happen to be the writer of a little-known Arsenal blog, as many as you see fit.

Which is nice.

Anyway, it’s been interesting to see the fall-out from the Chelsea game. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one worried we might face the backlash of a team enlivened by¬†an odds-on win¬†against Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

Alas the Gunner-virus sent to the Chelsea tactical computer didn’t land this week. And, with an even footing restored, it hardly went well did it?

Worse, we were robbed of a genuinely intriguing tussle. As it turns out, this Arsenal team isn’t as good as Chelsea with first a one player, and then a two player, advantage. We can’t learn much from that which isn’t already obvious. Despite the champions’ prat-fall of a start to the season, they’ve enough about them to overcome a stuttering Arsenal recklessly reduced by dismissals.

Mourinho’s soundbites after the game were infuriating, but he wasn’t all wrong. Not in defending Costa, where he’s surely baiting us all, but in his thinking about emotional control.¬†After all, what has been cast into the limelight is Gabriel’s willingness to ‘mix-it’, and the praise that willingness has drawn. Individual emotional control though, let’s talk about that.

Martin Keown has been vocal in his support for Gabriel, with backing also appearing from other quarters. James McNicholas (aka Gunnerblog) has written this piece about how Gabriel has now shown a welcome edge. This is true.

The piece also highlights the example of Dennis Bergkamp as someone who occasionally made use of an edge, the ‘dark arts’. Of course physicality, edge, ‘dark arts’ or whatever are sometimes needed. As is Gabriel’s ability to “stick up for his fellow defender Laurent Koscielny”. But there are two key considerations.

First, the likes of Dennis Bergkamp would generally employ ‘edge’ in a more intelligent and spread out competitiveness than that shown by Gabriel. For example, over the course of a particularly physical match, and not in reacting with¬†direct violence likely to result in punishment.

Referees, of course, react swiftly to any direct violence or unwarranted aggression on the pitch. Yet what they are unlikely to react to, at any level, is ongoing physicality or a hyped-up non-physical anger matching that which has already been accepted in the game.

Sometimes, as with Keown and his infamous and largely harmless falling chop on Van Nistelrooy, edge can even be more frown-and-wince than dangerous violence.

On Saturday, Mike Dean seemingly accepted Costa and Gabriel’s ‘firm’ mock pats to each other as they were given a talking to. If Mike Dean can accept physicality from Costa, he can accept that to be matched by¬†Gabriel.¬†If physicality is fair, or non-damaging¬†and equal then there’s no problem.

The second thing is that any attempt to exceed ‘fair physicality’ should be dealt with and backed up by video referees. End of discussion…to the point I now feel like I’m wasting words. Events thereafter the Costa and Koscielny clash are spoken about merely as a grotesque necessity borne of the absence of something which¬†would likely have prevented them.

Football needs technology which quickly indentifies and removes anyone uninterested in playing a safe, fair game at the top level. It’s nonsensical that it’s not yet implemented. It’s ludicrous.

The take away is this: Gabriel can learn to be like Dennis Bergkamp and intelligent in his physicality. Perhaps he can learn to be like Martin Keown. But I’m sure he and others in the squad (Giroud, to name one) can can develop intelligent physicality.

That’s individual emotional control.

Players need it. At least while a player behaving like Costa can see acts go unpunished before the match points are unfairly decided.

Strange Fans (We’ve got Some).

We know how it went on Saturday. We were winning, Theo went down injured near the Tottenham support, got some stick and then responded with a cheeky/rational riposte. Cue the coins and some rather unfortunate stretcher bearers who may well have woken up with some pound-shaped bruises on Sunday.

The thing is, while throwing anything at anyone anywhere in a violent and aggressive manner is generally stupid, I’d like to remind the Arsenal faithful that our own fans can get somewhat…err, animated in a rather impolite way as well. A comment from Captain Obvious maybe, but let the record show I spent the first 10 minutes of the FA Cup tie not enjoying the atmosphere of the on-field battle.

Instead I was actually considering never attending another North London Derby, because I really don’t want to hear people sing chants such as:

“It should have been you, it should have been you, shot in Angola it should have been you.” (Directed at Emmanuel Adebayor).

Neither am I a huge fan of songs about how Tottenham should have burned in the riots, or variations on that theme. It’s ridiculous; the societal problems – lit with elements of opportunism – which caused chaos in London in the Summer of 2011 weren’t anything to do with Tottenham Hotspur FC, and to wish the immolation of other football fans is hardly very classy in jest or not.

Me? I don’t really go in for the “it’s all banter” defence, and I don’t participate in any songs which may be considered offensive to any other football fan or person on the street (there’s a couple regularly sung at the Emirates).

Of course, of course, I’m not saying the same isn’t true of other fans at other grounds – although I do note the Boxing Day fixture at Dartford FC was missing self-important chants casting injury and death respectively upon opposition fans and players.

What I am saying is that throwing coins at a player who is injured is not good at all, but the Tottenham fans who did that deserve to think about their actions as those who sing chants some class as “banter” need to perhaps consider their lyrics.

I love attending the Emirates, I love watching The Arsenal live. I don’t like that one of our players was the target of physical projectiles, but nor do I enjoy the verbal ones some Arsenal fans throw.

The Water Shortage

As much as we can remain positive, this Summer’s sucking like a kryptonite straw, and it’s hard to not think our destiny this year will be affected by signings.

Quite frankly, our plan this Summer – and I find it impossible to believe their isn’t one – is bewildering me. ¬†And last night came quotes from the BBC’s David Ornstein:

“Arsenal still have transfer plans in place. Market not moved liked they’d expected it to.”

Quite what that means I suspect we’ll never know, but when even your North London neighbours are making decent additions then you have to move the market yourself and secure the targets you think are good enough. Surely? The issue:

“Wenger, who is in control of all transfers at Arsenal, won’t pay over his valuations of players.”

I respect Arsene Wenger, I am well and truly ready to eat humble pie come September 3rd, and I don’t mean to demean his principles, but sometimes you need to spend.

If it’s a hot day and I need a drink, I might spend ¬£1.50 for the bottle of water, even if I think it’s only worth ¬£1. I might think I can find the same amount of water for less elsewhere, but given a finite window to buy said water in, and with such water in short supply I’d probably buy it earlier to ensure acquisition and pay a bit more.

The alternative is I go from store to store looking for better valued water while the more expensive stuff is snapped up. I still need water, so surely at some point I’ll take the plunge and buy?

“Arsenal have 3-4 options (other than Suarez), Rooney is one, but club have accepted they might not sign a star striker.”

Surely we need water in this heat. To not find some could be… challenging.

Analogy over, but it’s rather confusing. At the moment I await the Luis Gustavo announcement as some sort of affirmation that any player of top-level experience (no disrespect to Sanogo) is joining the club. However, I half-suspect he’ll be off elsewhere.

And where does this all leave us? 20+ players out, one in and a Columbian triallist who did enough to earn a contract but couldn’t get a visa. Honestly, the players want signings, we fans want signings, and I have to think that at least Arsene does too as he’s admitted we’re ‘thin’.

If we fail to find any quality reinforcements, come September third I may well be singing this little ditty by @GeezyPeas and pondering what might have  Higuain been.

Buy, buy even Abdoulaye Faye,¬†we’ve even started wanting Michu because our glass is so dry. The boards old boys will say ‘hell, we tried’…

…singing September 3rd’ll be the day we all cry…September 3rd’ll be the day we all cry.

I am parched.

A Return To Form

Super ATS

I’m back.¬†I’m not sure where I went but here I am.

Also, here are some things I’ve learned this Summer.

  1. Listening to Twitter ITKs (‘in the knows’, for the uninitiated) is not conducive to optimal mental/emotional health. It’s probably safer to ignore all of them, but I’m taking most things these supposed fonts of knowledge spout with a hefty hill of salt from now on.
  2. We do have a good core of players.
  3. Aaron Ramsey (injured now, of course) is a top professional footballer displaying his true qualities in pre-season. All those who doubted him I understand, but all those who sought to abuse him and spread the ‘try-hard’ narrative explicitly should be eating humble pie. Good work, Aaron.
  4. Footballers can magic themselves into a first-team appearance. See: Sebastian Perez (and also good for him).
  5. I really fail to understand our transfer ‘plan’ if there was one…

That’s it. Short and sweet for now. Come say hi on Twitter.