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Theo as captain? Do me a favour…
Superb paragraph on Theo Walcott – the definition of modern-day Arsenal. He really is a symbol for everything about us as a club. He’s nice, he shows flashes of quality, but really, he’s probably not really good enough to secure you major honours consistently.
One thing he’s certainly not is a captain!! That sums us up though – lovely and cuddly and sentimental. Meanwhile, Costa snarls away, barging around and winning matches for his team. No complaints, he just gets the job done against us every time – we’re putty in his horrible hands.
It’s a tired line, but in these big games I think the buck just has to stop with Wenger. We get the odd decent result where everyone goes ‘hey, he might have cracked this’ but actually, still too often we’re getting rolled over. Where is the fight and the passion a la Vieira, Cole, Keown and Parlour? It would wind me up less if we had a different manager but Wenger had all these types of players, won with these types of players and now…nothing of the sort.
Finally, no complaints on the red, Per had to go. Wish he’d either not looked at the lino OR just let him run through – it reminded me of the Champions League final we lost a bloody decade ago now. Cech might’ve foiled him, Koscielny might have even got back enough to put him off. Who knows? Was an impossible task from then on I thought, with Fabregas absolutely bossing things. That was simply the cherry on top of what was a crappy Sunday afternoon.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex
Blaming Wenger’s in-game management…
The stage was set for revenge and we bottled it. At home, against a side slowly finding its feet 22 games into the season, two key players coming back into the side and we bottled it. It is hard to pin-point reasons for yesterday’s defeat because so much of it came down to a moment of inexplicable stupidity from our most experienced player. That Diego Costa dived is immaterial since contact would have been made even if he didn’t decide to launch himself into the air. So the red card sealed our fate. Or not.
Giroud’s withdrawal to shore up the numbers at the back was bizarre at the time and looking at how the game panned out thereafter only amplifies that feeling. Walcott walked out of the tunnel with the armband presumably in commemoration of 10 years with the club and that he chose to celebrate with yet another anonymous performance was fitting. Moved to the middle after Giroud went off, his inability to get on the end of passes or get involved with play was infuriating. The times he did manage to get to the ball he ended up being offside from the most improbable starting positions. That the manager chose to place faith in a player who was withdrawn for a 19-year-old last week over one who is, though carrying a knock, on form and integral to our attacking play cannot be explained. Admittedly, Wenger could not have foreseen the goal coming so quickly after the sending off and was perhaps hoping to exploit Walcott’s pace on the counter but Chelsea wised up and didn’t bother pushing Arsenal too hard and suffocated Walcott’s pace. Looking back at the game it feels like things might have been so much different had Giroud stayed on the pitch especially in the later stages when we managed to pin them back for extended periods but were unable to find the decisive pass amid the mass of blue.
Another error was Wenger’s failure to capitalize on the runs Flamini was able to make from deep. Whether this was planned or simply Flamini being overeager, the fact of the matter is that Chelsea were not doing a good job of handling runs from deep. This meant that the chances we made fell to Flamini who did his best to emulate Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry but reminded us instead of the halcyon days of Nicklas Bendtner. Why on earth Ramsey wasn’t making those runs I don’t know but clearly Wenger should have sought to take advantage. Whether this was by instructing Ramsey to get in the box or by going gung-ho and bringing on Oxlade-Chamberlain for the Frenchman, the choices were available for Arsenal. It’s a pity we didn’t explore them.
In my view, this defeat was down to poor decisions made during the course of the game as much as it was about the squad’s shaky temperament. So while the game became harder than it already was thanks to the sending off, the critical moment came just after that in my view. Taking Giroud off was counter-productive as we lost our focal point in attack. I reckon Wenger himself would acknowledge, with the benefit of hindsight, that he got it wrong. Chelsea played well but no different to how they have since Hiddink’s arrival. This wasn’t a ‘special’ performance from them and yet we failed to put them to the sword. Where this leaves us in the title race is unclear since we still have to play both the teams above us but I fear this month just passed has had a telling blow on our hopes. Five points from a possible twelve just doesn’t seem the stuff of champions. Even so, there’s nothing a massive winning streak can’t solve, eh?
Pranav, AFC (I never want to see Mathieu Flamini in an Arsenal shirt again)
…As much as it pained me to see Giroud’s reaction, especially given his contribution this season, I can understand that Wenger wanted to use pace. It’s not like Chelsea weren’t dominating the game. But the problem with losing Giroud was that we were losing a figurehead, someone who has been a presence in several matches, especially ones like these. Without him, it was practically impossible to even bother the Chelsea defense.
One of Giroud’s key attributes is that even when he’s not scoring, he is bringing players into attack and doing so while holding off the opposition. And he’s done quite well this season. This is an area where, had Sanchez played alongside him, we could have atleast had a better chance of salvaging a draw. The fact that Walcott was given the captain’s armband on having completed 10 years, if that really was the case, means absolute sh*t, like the time we got battered 6-0 on Wenger’s 2000th league game or something like that. Walcott, after 10 years, is still such a frustrating and divisive player to watch. I can’t even blame him anymore, because he doesn’t pick the selection nor his position. Arsenal are truly lacking a creative presence on the wings apart from Sanchez and Cazorla is not it. Not even Welbeck.
If Sanchez could play for a good half hour or so during the second half, then why wasn’t he starting to begin with? This is another problem Wenger refuses to deal with. He underestimates the opposition by being too cautious, plays a slightly weaker team, goes down, and then decides to throw the kitchen sink. Surely, he could have started off with Sanchez and then brought on 10-year anniversary Walcott as a sub from the bench during the second half? This has happened several times over the last five years and further back. Yes, Sanchez is not supposed to be our only hope of scoring but he probably is our best hope in such situations. Against United, we battered them with high intensity at the start and then chose to settle down. Why couldn’t Wenger do the same against a struggling Chelsea?
Lastly, I wonder, is there any team in the top four that gives hope to teams that are haven’t won for a stretch of several games or strikers that haven’t scored in ages or yet to open their scoring account? I suppose no one but Arsenal do this better. I’ve lost count of how often a commentator has said it before the kick off, that ‘X’ team hasn’t won a game in several matches or ‘X’ player has yet to score a goal this season and it’s that team that ends up beating us or that said player who opens his scoring account against us.
The only positive I can take from our position is this: If we have to lose twice a season to Chelsea, to be three points off the top, towards the end of Jan, then I’ll take it.
Carl, AFC (February however…history tells a different story.)
…That was very much an Arsenal performance. Despite the bluntness in front of goal, I really couldn’t fault them for much. They were a man down. My grouse is with Wenger, Walcott, and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Why did Arsene wait so long to bring on Alexis? Walcott perfected the vanishing act after all his tough talk, and why does Alex always attempt to do so much when a single pass would suffice?
Jeffrey (first-time writer), Nigeria
I told you Mertesacker was the issue…
Same old problems.
I wrote in some months ago saying that Mertesacker could turn out to be Wenger’s worse signing because he’s a good player but not quite good enough, however not bad enough to be a priority position to fix. That may have finally changed. It’s not just that he’s slow but he all fails to give you that extra thing that slow defenders like Terry, Vidic and Carragher have provided to make up for their lack of pace: leadership, organisation and awesome aerial presence. Literally, what’s the point if he doesn’t bring those qualities to the table? Koscielny was also woeful and showed why he’ll never be regarded as one of the top defenders in the game, all the talent but unreliable focus and zero organisational input.
To be fair to them, the pair defend much better with a credible defensive midfielder shielding them. Flamini and Ramsey were disgraceful in how they left them exposed time and again. Coquelin is great and could be considered the best in the league, yet we all knew that Flamini and Arteta are incapable of playing that role, even as back-ups. It’s not a new development, they’ve been deficient for two years now. We’ve got this Elneny fella, if he’s not good enough to start now, Wenger should have bought someone who is. Get him on the pitch.
Wenger’s no tactics coaching only works with smart players, it looks like Ramsey just doesn’t get it. He’s running around like a lunatic every game and Wenger’s not teaching him any different. Doesn’t seem to understand the role of a modern central midfielder. Looking like Oxlade is suffering similarly. Both players could probably do with a different coaching set-up.
Lastly, can we stop with the myth that Walcott hasn’t developed to his potential. This is his level, he’s just never had top level talent. His touch and ball control has always been off and has been relying on his pace a composure. Well, his composure seems to have deserting him this season. He’s not like Pennant, Lennon or Adam Johnson who have good ball control and some skill but failed to develop their all round game to make use of it. He’s just not very talented to begin with. Wenger seems to have persisted with him out a pride, apparently just can’t admit his mistake. That and his relatively high end product for a team which previously lacked goalscorers. Can’t wait for Welbeck’s return.
Arsenal haven’t gotten better, the other usual suspects have got worse. We really could have sub-80-point champions, whoever wins.
Or is it Flamini?
I don’t get it. Why do Arsenal continue to start Flamini? He can’t pass, he can’t shoot, he can’t tackle, he has no positional awareness (as shown by Costa’s goal). Week in, Week out all he does is run around, point and shout at people. Arsenal are pretty much playing with 10 men every time he’s on the pitch, his centre mid partner has to cover the entire centre midfield when he plays. He did the exact opposite of what he is supposed to today, he should be sitting in front of the defensive while Ramsey bursts forward, instead he left the defensively suspect Ramsey against two of the best attacking mids in the league on their day (Fabregas and Oscar). I can’t fathom why Arsene Wenger continues to persist with him, we have Chambers who isn’t exactly the best but is pretty solid in everything he does and would actually contribute positively to the side. We have Elneny who is very mobile and seems defensively capable, and finally we have Arteta who although being very slow and not mobile what so ever, is still able to pass and position himself well defensively. All three would be much better options than him in the defensive midfield position, a blind man could see it. But Arsene Wenger doesn’t, somehow.
Thankfully Coquelin is back in training and this nightmare might be over soon. But the points Flamini has lost us in his two months in the team will almost certainly cost us at the end of the season.
Arsenal ‘should’ win league? No chance…
Daniel Storey says in his 16 Conclusions that Arsenal should win this title race because ‘Manchester United and Chelsea are flawed far beyond expectation. Leicester’s lack of squad depth and quality in comparison with Arsenal should make them surmountable. Tottenham have never been in this position before, while Manchester City seem to have at least one eye on Pep Guardiola’. Now the first three points are excusable, but saying that a Man City team with a better with a better squad depth and quality than Arsenal shouldn’t win the league because rumours circulate over a new manager (which Arsenal are not immune too, albeit not in the same ferociousness) dosen’t really hold up as a stick with which to beat Arsenal.
With regards to Tottenham not being in this position before; this Arsenal squad have never been in a winning position before. Arsenal’s longest serving player is Walcott at a decade and has only one two FA Cups in that time (Storey also mentions that). Yes Arsenal have league winners in their squad (Debuchy, Giroud, Rosicky, Arteta, Cech, Ozil, Sanchez), but Tottenham do as well (Eriksen, Dembele, Alderweireld, Vertonghen). To assume Arsenal should win because the club has more history comes back to what was written in the Mailbox on Friday based on ‘Arry’s thoughts about form. The players weren’t there for it, so they don’t have it. If anything that adds more pressure to the players on the team with history.
I’m not getting at anyone, and sorry if this appears ‘ranty’. I do agree this appears their best chance for a while (although that was also said two seasons ago), but to say that the 3rd/4th best team in the league should win the league for those reasons just got to me, and I had to vent.
Conor, (When will Chelsea fans do what the rest of us want and f**k off) Dublin
We don’t deserve this now…
If you cant beat the worst Premier League champions in history then you have no business being champions yourself.
Over to you Fosse, I genuinely hope you do it.
Graham Simons, Gooner who allowed himself to be taken in by that joke of a team yet again, Norf London
Do Chelsea still have better players than Arsenal?
It wasn’t until Sanchez came on that I would have swapped a single Arsenal player for one of ours…part from Petr Cech of course. It’s the third game in a row Courtois has looked like he is lacking confidence and just flapping at any high ball..
Anyway – nice to watch a game and then immediately look forward to watching it again on Match of the Day.
Some Arsenal optimism and more…
* First off, I’m never confident going into a Chelsea match and an air of inevitability descended once Mertesacker was sent off. But there were two sickeners for me: 1) the goal we conceded wasn’t down to a numerical disadvantage, we had enough back to snuff out that chance; 2) from where I was seated it looked like Ramsey had an opportunity to kill that counter-attack at source with a cynical foul, but that’s an instinct we still seem to be missing.
* A win today – even a draw in the circumstances – would have been a statement, regardless of Chelsea’s position, but a loss doesn’t mean the title is gone. We get to play each of our rivals between now and the end of the season, albeit away from home, and none of them have a hex over us like champions. The key for Arsenal is to find a way to win the games that come between those major showdowns. Southampton (h), Everton (a) and West Ham (a) all look like banana skins – this season, all the games look like that to be fair – but champions find a way not to slip up. We have the personnel, we just need the focus and the desire.
* It’s too early to call that a big weekend in the title race, but it looks like a big one for the top four. There’s now a five-point gap between fourth and fifth. That’s potentially huge news for Spurs, who will know the Europa League is now an obstacle to securing Champions League football rather than an alternative route. Thursday nights will absolutely be for the second string while they save their best players for the league. They’re in the thick of the title race.
* Where Spurs are flourishing, United are floundering. Spurs owe their success to their manager, their scouting, and a resilience in adversity. United are in a tactical straitjacket, have failed to build a strong enough squad, and can’t escape the quicksand of their lethargic mentality.
* Where now for United? As many points separate them from Spurs in fourth and Watford in 10th. Their goal difference is worse than West Ham and Saints, eight less than Arsenal, nine less than Leicester and 15 less than Spurs and City. Without major changes in personnel on or off the pitch can we really see them climbing into the top four? A Leicester slump looks like their best hope but 1) they haven’t slumped yet 2) they’re 10 pts ahead 3) there are other teams who look likelier to capitalise. In stark contrast, again, to Spurs, Thursday nights are looking like their best bet. But how much does this matter? United are a money making machine, and only Real Madrid are better equipped to miss out on Champions League TV revenue. They can still stick with the project of rebuilding in ‘the United way’, and ignoring the looming presence of Jose Mourinho would indicate that’s their plan. Either that or it might be a sign that they’re confident of snaring a certain Spanish manager in the summer.
* City are favourites to win the league as long as they keep Sergio Aguero fit. If his hamstrings twang, it’s ridiculously close to call.
* Jurgen Klopp’s ultra-mobile lower jaw gives me the heebie-jeebies.
* Norwich should be relegated immediately for that defending. Trying to work out if Russell Martin’s backpass or Robbie Brady’s looping header back into the danger zone was worse.
* I really, really don’t understand Newcastle United.
* Is it time we put Ronnie Rosenthal out of his misery and accepted Seamus Coleman’s miss is the new benchmark?
Man United need to let go of Van Gaal/Giggs dream
It was interesting to see the mailbox reaction to another woeful and frankly unbelievable (yet entirely believable) display from Manchester United. I especially liked the entry from Ted, Manchester who asked the question: Why is nothing changing? Before promptly answering that question in his final paragraph.
To paraphrase, we are damned if we sack van Gaal and damned if we don’t. Damned if we do because the transfer window is about to slam shut (I love that phrase) so no incoming manager can make the various tweaks of personnel he would want to make, and damned if we don’t because, well, we’re stuck with van Gaal. Christmas was the perfect time to part ways and try to kick start the season, but we’re stuck in the rot now and it can’t be fixed in 2015/16’s campaign.
But honestly that sidesteps the main issue. It goes deeper than the performances. It goes deeper than whether van Gaal stays or goes. It goes right down to the level of the board and the owners whose negligible arrogance following the Moyes debacle is finally becoming clear. They went to a man with decent experience in the blind faith that he would steady the ship in the three years he was given before handing over to Giggs, who by that time would be an experienced number two. That sounds lovely doesn’t it? The problem is the board didn’t think for a second that things might go wrong, and didn’t plan for a time when that Disneyesque fairy-tale of Giggs being handed the keys to old Trafford in 2018 might not happen.
I believe the board are still stuck in that dream, which is fast becoming a nightmare. They are unwilling to detach from it. This is the issue though: Louis van Gaal’s tenure has gone wrong and it has poisoned Giggs too, and the mood around Old Trafford is that he should probably go with the Dutchman. It’s a shame it’s worked out like that, but right now they are both hanging around the place like unwanted relatives at a wedding reception.
I’m a season ticket holder at Old Trafford and have been for the past 11 seasons. I’ve seen some great games in that time, and also some pretty woeful games as well. But this is as bad as I remember it, and not just performances. The mood, the pre and post-match atmosphere. Fans booing our anthems! I’m not an advocate of sacking managers over short-term results. But I do accept the sacking of managers who do not look like they know how to turn things around.
It’s in my DNA to back the lads no matter what, but for God’s sake Ed, do something now about the manager!
Chris (Still standing, still singing) – Manchester
LVG’s problem was his foresight
A manager is closer to the reality of the squad than the fans. LVG in an attempt at swift surgery kicked Hernandez, Robin van Persie and Rafael out of the squad.
Selling these fan favorites is his biggest mistake. They may have played lesser games and seeing them under perform would have helped fans realize they are not good enough. This would have given him a longer rope for one more summer. Right now, we are stuck with no good options from the bench. This sucks. Big time. And that is his fault.
By the way, I keep reading that this season, nobody wants to win the title. Bull sh*t. Leicester clearly do. Leicester are nailed-on favorites for the title and sure shot for top four. They only need another 27 points from 15 games to seal top four.
This leaves United in a race with Tottenham and they clearly know what they are doing. Unless a miracle happens, it seems like we will miss out again. That is just depressing as an United fan.
Sudarsan Ravi (Sense of entitlement, yada yada yada. Disappointments are always relative)
Was it more fun when they were brilliant
I don’t know what’s worse; watching a man united side romp to the title for the millionth time as I force matchsticks into my eyes or laughing as they crumble only to discover the complete high-jacking of the F365 mailbox. Yes. You were sh**e again. It’s hilarious. Stop ruining it.
Jim. NUFC (supporting Newcastle is like having a mentally challenged child; he won’t be top of the class, he may even be held back a year, but you still love him anyway)
Can we (Leicester) win the league?
The mailbox will no doubt be full of moaning Utd and Arsenal on Monday morning so I thought I would write in to provide a different perspective – that of the only team in the top three to win at the weekend and now ‘runaway’ leaders of the Premier League – Leicester City.
Let’s just take a moment here. That is little old Leicester top of the league and all January fixture now complete. I am trying to keep it all in perspective without getting hysterical, cos I know it could all go wrong tomorrow and I am a supposedly grown man with a wife and two kids, but I couldn’t sleep until 1am Saturday night, which is late such is the party lifestyle I now lead.
I am particularly enjoying the media’s use of our run of form (including your good selves). One week we have won 1 in 7 and the bubble has burst. The next week we have only lost one league game in the last 16 and looking like supreme again.
In reality, even if the intensity has dipped a bit over the Xmas period, we still kept pace and didn’t really experience any shock results beyond draws with Villa and Bournemouth.
Vardy and Mahrez are returning to form, Drinkwater is increasing in confidence and the defence is becoming incredibly organised. And last, but not least, Kante is fast becoming one of the most incredible players in City’s history. It really is an absolute privilege watching him annoy the sh*t out of the opposition and carry the ball forward. It looks like there are at least three of him on the pitch at times due to his inch-perfect positional sense.
I guess my point is, now we find ourselves in this position, at what point do we start to talk about ourselves as genuine title contenders. In recent weeks I’ve been viewing our best hope of achievement as a Europa League spot, then the dawning realisation that a CL fourth-place play-off might be possible. And now I am starting to get my head around the fact that it would take a pretty amazing downturn of form from us and a rare run from one of the contenders to catch us and displace us from the CL spots. Madness.
I think people have been saying ‘the next few games will define Leicester’s season’ since we started on this run. But the next three games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City really will give us an indication of those credentials. Take anything from them and who knows (I can see us taking two points which won’t be a bad return).
I still don’t think we can win it. But by crikey I think we can give it a good shot.
Rob, (tell me when it is time to wake up) Leicester
…What an unbelievable time to be a Leicester fan. The KP is rocking, players playing out of their skin, Vardy firing, Mahrez Cruyffing past players, Drinky being talked about for England, I could go on. Football is just pure joy at the moment.
We will be 3 points clear at the top of the table in February. The Premier League table.
2013-14 – we won the Championship on 102 points, 17 clear of the playoffs
2014-15 – great escape with Cambiasso
2015-16 – title challenge
Promotion, relegation escape and title challenge in three years. It just defies belief.
We’ve got Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City next, so being top at end of February will be a challenge. But we’ve got nothing to lose and we’re staying up even if we don’t win a game for the rest of the season!
I love football.
Toby (we are staying up!) Mitchell
Ed’s weekend thoughts
* A bit of admin to start. Firstly, I had a day off with my son on Friday, which I didn’t want to waste on Mailbox ingrates, so I quite literally phoned in my contribution (well, emailed off my phone). Insert joke about an F365 writer of your choice here. Secondly, Ed Quoththeraven is my real first and middle name. Now that’s cleared up we can get on with the week.
* Well done to Tottenham. When the goals that beat you are that good, there isn’t a great deal you can do other than tip your hat.
* Aside from “1-3 is better than 0-4”, this was an improvement from Crystal Palace. The old mantra goes that it’s not the goals drying up that’s the real problem, it’s the chances. The Glaziers did create some good chances, and it was good to see Wilf Zaha properly torment a full-back for the first time in ages.
* There is something likeable about that Hotspur side. Their goalkeeper is excellent; their best outfielders are mostly young, and have worked their way up from the lower leagues, or played there on loan; their manager appears not to be a c##t.
* Wayne Hennessey rewarded his manager’s faith in him with a much-improved performance.
* When Palace were promoted, and again last season, the best performances were a result of the balance on the flanks – while Zaha earned all the plaudits and a big money move in the Championship, he wouldn’t have been able to be as effective if Yannick Bolasie wasn’t equally potent on the other wing. Likewise, when Bolasie was being lauded last season, if Zaha hadn’t also been quietly effective on the other side, then defences would have been able to ignore him and focus on Bolasie.
Among some fans, the knives appear to be out for Jason Puncheon a bit. He hasn’t been playing at his best, and there is perhaps some merit in looking for someone who can play as an attacking midfielder and a winger, just to provide competition for places.
*Palace have slipped to 11th now, but are only three points behind Liverpool in 7th. Their next four Premier League games are Bournemouth (h), Swansea (a), Watford (h) and West Brom (a). Without taking any of those teams lightly, there is plenty of reason to believe we can take points from these games and get our season back on track.
* Stereotype news of the day: a friendly game between Boca Juniors and River Plate had five red cards.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven (Angaleena Presley’s ‘If Big Bird Said the F-Word’ is one of my new favourite songs)
Banjo’s weekend thoughts
Arsenal and Everton are a bit ‘Spursy’.
For LVG to say the reason Man Yoo had one shot on goal is because Southampton set up defensively is beyond unacceptable and should be the final nail in his coffin. As a City fan I sincerely hope it’s not.
Payet is sublime.
A central defender who makes Costa look like an olympic sprinter has no place in a team with title aspirations.
A central defender who is more interested in how his hair looks than marking his man has no place in a side with title aspirations.
Regardless of his age Spurs are not paying Dele Alli nearly enough.