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And January, it seems
Seriously what is it about Arsenal and February? You could set your watch by them.
Most Arsenal players just aren’t winners
Your piece about Wenger’s post match comments begins with the following quote: “Look, I don’t know why you say same old Arsenal. For 20 years we have been at the top of the Premier League.”
And therein lies the massive problem – we have been top of the Premier League, when it matters – for 12 years now. We’ve picked up this “same old Arsenal” tag from 2004 to now because we are bottlers who are good but just not quite good enough come May.
Tonight was a joke. Two of Wenger’s brilliant ‘rabbit out the hat’ players dictating everything, and the blokes they’re playing with being nowhere near the required level. Giroud, Walcott, Campbell, Flamini, even Ramsey who I love (crap tonight). These players are not winners.
One of Ozil or Sanchez will go as soon as Pep Guardiola decides which one he wants and we’ll be licking our wounds again.
Doesn’t matter though, because we’ve been top for 20 years and a transfer window must be just around the corner now surely….?
Joe, AFC, East Sussex
The formation is the issue
So after being two points clear after 20 games and beating Man City in an impressive display, we’re now winless in four games and goalless in our last three. To me the problem isn’t the personnel, it’s Wenger’s tactical inflexibility. For a manager who preaches playing the game the right way and talks of an attacking philosophy his stubborn persistence with a 4-5-1 formation, even for home games, is baffling.
Granted it’s more of a 4-2-3-1, but still, only playing one striker even with home advantage is conservative to say the least. It’s also makes our play extremely predictable. Generally it’s played from the back, then out to the wings and then back inside to look for Ozil. So if teams can stifle Ozil we struggle massively.
Even if Ozil does get a ball in and we create a chance he only has Giroud as an option and therefore our chances of scoring are automatically slimmer than if we had two players up there. This isn’t to say Giroud isn’t good enough either. He has many strengths but the mobility needed to operate as a lone striker isn’t one of them. His main strengths are his finishing, his strength and his ability to bring the ball down and hold up play. These qualities would perfectly complement someone like Walcott/Campbell/The Ox, players with more speed and energy but not as good finishers, operating as a support striker.
My suggestion would be playing a 4-4-2 diamond or rather a 4-1-3-2. The only change to the current formation would be losing one of our deeper lying CMs in favour of support striker. Playing two CMs at home for me is overly cautious and the fact we’ve scored seven less than Spurs and Leicester, and nine less than Man City highlights this fact.
Bottom-half midfielders who are better than Flamini
Didn’t really feel up for writing any conclusions on that shocking Arsenal game, so I decided to list Premier League players better than Mathieu Flamini in his position:
Ki Seung Yung
And that’s only from teams in the bottom half….
Alex AFC (Special mention to Ramsey, Walcott, Giroud and Campbell who were also horrific)
Can Walcott please leave our club?
The key question is Walcott just a quick Mathieu Flamini? I mean he comes on, runs around a lot (usually to nowhere in particular), is generally pointy and shouty but doesn’t actually do anything.
Ten years is more than enough! Time to get those ridiculous, unearned, wages off the books in the summer.
Seán AFC Dublin
An Arsenal fan: Spurs will finish above us
After 20 years it’s finally going to happen. Spurs are going to finish above Arsenal. There’s one main reason for this, they actually play as a team. All of their players put in a shift and boy does it show.
On the other hand we’ve got Arsenal who are nothing but a team of individuals at this point. Ozil has more or less carried us through the first part of the season and did that again today creating 10(!) chances throughout the match, but one man can’t do it all.
Whilst Spurs, Leicester and City were all working their socks off and reaping the rewards, players like Giroud have decided it would be fine to just stand around and wait for a chance to put on a plate for them.
Ramsey and Flamini have decided they want to become attacking mids and abandon their centre mid posts. In contrast to this players like Vardy and Kane are working hard to find space for chances to be created and players like Drinkwater, Kante, Dier etc are actually playing where their manager has put them and doing the job they’ve been given.
I don’t really know if Wenger hasn’t motivated the players or if they are simply not fit enough to do what a majority of the Spurs/Leicester players have been doing. But one thing is for sure, Spurs are a better team than we are. We may have better individuals but as a cohesive unit they are streets ahead.
I can’t see a way that Arsenal will be able to finish above Spurs when, bar the City and Bournemouth games, we’ve been playing like a team of individuals for 2 or 3 months. But hey, Wenger will still be rewarded for yet another sub par season with a new contract. Who needs Pep..?
Matt, Arsenal Fan
A Spurs fan: Yeah, we’re title contenders now
Strange this, but as I write this at half time in the Spurs v Norwich game, it just dawned on me that I finally believe we are title contenders.
A rebound goal and a dodgy (maybe) penalty against a side that conceded five last week have somehow made up my mind. It’s clearly an accumulation of factors, but I just know that in previous seasons we’d be 0-0 at half time in this game before conceding and losing 1-0.
I watched it so many time, lost so much sleep over it. This Spurs team can win ugly through the sheer volume of pressure we put on other teams. So un-Spursy. We are the anti-Spurs and I love it.
Joel (Please Poch never leave)
Emre Can: At least Biscan could tackle
Just how long can Klopp stick with the ego that is Emre Can? At least Igor Biscan could tackle but the contribution from both on the ball is pretty similar. Can strikes me as player that got noticed as a young player in under 16s when he was actually around 20.
On a separate point do Liverpool practice crossing at training ? They can’t cross and they can’t defend them, so they either don’t practice them or they are so rubbish at crossing that in practice they look reasonable defending them.
So that’s a back eight of Goalkeeper of the day – Craig Dawson, Jonas Olsson, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher, Sandro, Claudio Yacob.
Tony Pulis really is ridiculously negative at times.
Greg Tric, Nairobi
Benteke and Sakho: Get in the bin
Do us a favour Jurgen, dump Sakho and Benteke in a skip outside the King Power before you leave please.
Steve LFC, London (via Bootle)
Manchester United were good!
United just played some great football and won 3-0 so I’m going to say some nice things because that was nice. Nice.
Rooney now has seven goals and two assists in seven games. I don’t know what happened to him, or how it happened to him, but it’s lovely to see him proving us all wrong.
Daley Blind is a very, very good footballer. He’s consistent, passionate, has great vision and can play a number of positions. People like to assume that versatile players aren’t as good because they haven’t nailed down a position, those people are wrong because Blind is a delight.
Martial occasionally loses the ball and sometimes makes the wrong decision, but my God what a brilliant player. Always involved, always threatening and oozing confidence. His goal was absolutely beautiful (great vision by Rooney too.) I’ll never forget the “WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY” headline from Mirror Sport. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Bojack Horseman (Otherwise known as Borthwick-Jackson) has been very good so far. He plays with confidence and can put in a hell of a cross. Looks a great prospect. Plus it’s hilarious to watch him run.
Gaaavie (Please make this your new philosophy, LvG?), Cape Town
Love for Martial, Rooney and LVG
LVG has received a lot of criticism since he took over from Moyes, but he really does deserve plaudits for sticking with Wayne Rooney when seemingly the rest of the galaxy had turned on our number 10. Wayne really has hit a purple patch with 7 goals in 7 games now.
For me its not even his predatory tap-in last night or his great early cross to Martial to set up the latter’s beautifully caressed top corner finished that impressed me last night, its his ‘finish’ for that disallowed goal (for a foul on Glen Johnson) that showed me he has his confidence back and hasn’t lost his instinct.
To give a keeper ‘the eyes’ and then stick it in his near post is a really difficult thing to do for a player short on confidence and Rooney stuck it in with aplomb, albeit for nothing. The willingness from LVG to give Rooney the best chance to beat Sir Bob Charlton’s records is really good to see and displays a great deal of selflessness from the gaffer, something LVG has never been commended for.
Anthony Martial was supposed to be a back up option to Rooney but he is proving to be our main man in every game he plays. Keep this up and the comparisons with Henry will start turning into “he can be better than Henry. His general willingness to take defenders on and his affinity toward the odd speculative shot make him really unpredictable.
He strikes a calm and mature figure on the pitch and I just found out that Martial, at barely 20 years old, is married and has a daughter! It would seem that that maturity isn’t confined to the field. The footballing world could be in for a real treat watching this boy develop. For all the talk of a dearth of top strikers in the world the Premier League seems to be really blessed where current and future prospects are concerned. Aguero, Martial, a rejuvenated Rooney, Vardy, Iheanacho and Kane, to name a few, look really good at the moment. Long may it continue!
This is in no way a sign of a new dawn that will see United surge up the table and finish second but, it does give us a glimpse of what the team has in its locker when everything clicks. The front 4 of Martial, Mata (as the number 10), Rooney and Lingard look a real threat going forward and once Memphis learns how to defend on that left flank and Martial is allowed to play the position that the number on his back suggests he plays (and Rooney is phased out in time of course), this United team will be a force to reckon with. Had Herrera played alongside Carrick last night Stoke might well have received a rugby score.
LVG has infuriated almost every United fan this season with some abject performances but whoever takes over from him, and us fans, will undoubtedly be indebted to him for laying the foundations for a great young team to develop.
Buchule Fulanisi, East London, RSA
Hooray for Leicester
I work with a Leicester City fan. Watching him attempt to function on a daily basis is simply fascinating. He’s obviously trying to live a normal, everyday existence and pretend that whatever he happens to be doing at any particular moment is vitally important, but every so often the mask falls away and he breaks out into a ridiculous grin. Sometimes he even giggles.
I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to be in his shoes; it’s pretty miserable being a Wolves fan right now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Leicester were scrapping away in the second tier with us, and we’re similar clubs in many ways.
There’s a whole bunch of us in the Championship – Forest, Derby, Leeds, Wednesday, a dozen others – who are looking on with a huge dash of envy and no little sadness that it’s them and not us. But then you look at the rest of the league table, and see Leicester still sticking their scruffy neck out above the Manchester clubs and Arsenal and Liverpool with the season two thirds gone, and you think of all those ordinary fans just like us who are bouncing up and down uncontrollably at their desks and grinning and thinking “What the f**k? What the f**k?” and you want them to win it almost as desperately as they do.
So, a plea to the footballing gods on behalf of all us middling, wish-it-was-us clubs… please let them p*ss all over everyone’s chips and win it, eh?
Ian (We miss you, Benik), Northampton
A Leicester fan gushes
Another unbelievable night at the King Power. This is just getting so beautifully mad. Everyone, including us, keeps expecting the wheels to come off. But we now go into away games at Arsenal and Man city, where even losing both will keep us right in the title race. I’m beginning to think that we might actually do it.
After years of listening to Liverpool, arsenal, spurs, etc fans complaining about not winning the league, how hilarious would it be if “little Leicester” do.
Europe seems a certainty now. I can’t wait, even if it is Europa league. Football is just brilliant joy at the moment, long may it continue
Toby (we’re staying up) Mitchell
Serious kudos to Manchester City
It’s now an oft-repeated statement (sometimes voiced as a complaint) that Premier League soccer is “just a business” as if in some way that was a bad thing. It was thus ever so – certainly don’t remember a club declaring they were just in it for fun, or were planning to operate as a non-profit or planned to register as a charitable institution.
What is risible however, is the complete failure of many top clubs to actually operate as a credible business. It’s comical to imagine most of these organizations trying to run a business in any other arena other than football, where less successful clubs are essentially subsidized by broadcast revenues driven mostly from the success of the teams from the upper echelons. They’d be out of business faster than you could say “doing a Leeds”.
Manchester City, on the other hand, are actually operating as a well-run business. Since the 2008 takeover, the club has developed and executed against a long-term business plan where the pieces are now falling firmly into place. It’s easy to write off their success as simply being funded by Mansour’s many millions, but that’s far from the truth. Aside from operating with a relatively stable management and executive team (only two first team coaches in seven seasons is pretty stable by any standards over recent years) there are many things to admire about the organisation, and not just from the lack of panic-firing and panic-hiring of head coaches.
They are obviously planning long-term with the £200 million development of the City Football Academy and investing heavily in the coaching setup there. I doubt this is being done for a philanthropic reason to supply quality players to other clubs, or to give the neighborhood kids a place for a kick-about. They’re building the talent pipeline.
From a financial perspective, the numbers are truly interesting. The recent Deloitte Money League report for the 2014/15 season show City ranked 6th in Europe, domestically outperformed only by Manchester United in third spot. What I find interested in these numbers is the proportion of their revenues that come from match day – ticket sales – is far less that the other six at £43M – compare that to Arsenal just behind them in 7th who rake in a Europe-high £100M from their supporters.
This isn’t because their crowds are much smaller – City’s average attendance is around 54,000 (the third best in the league), a tad less than 99% of capacity. Arsenal average 99.3%, United 99.5%. The difference is that City don’t ream their fans. Their most affordable season ticket is the second-best price in the country, only £5 more expensive than the cheapest (Stoke). City make up the difference from TV and merchandise revenues which looks to me like a club that understand the importance of keeping your supporters happy and therefore your home games boisterous. You can pretty much hear a pin drop at some Arsenal games, and today’s news that Liverpool fans are upset about the ticket prices in the expanded Anfield shows that some other organizations are not as concerned with the well-being of their fan-base; some clubs pretty much take them for granted.
The most recent financial results for the 2014/2015 season show them returning a profit of £10.7m, which compared to the appalling losses of 2010/11 shows a company in fine financial fettle. Take all this together and it’s no surprise that they were able to hire Guardiola; it’s been part of their strategy since Roberto Mancini departed.
It’s irrelevant whether Pep could coach Villa, or Sunderland, or endure wet Tuesdays in Stoke or worry if he’s about to get the bum’s rush from Roman Abramovich – he doesn’t need to. Most other clubs should be looking enviously at City – not because they hired Guardiola, but because they have the setup and planning that made the hiring possible.
Steve (nothing to see here), Los Angeles
At least Villa have accepted that they’re doomed
Aston Villa’s transfer window was not a shambles. It was prudent preparation for the championship. To be frank, signing anyone in January would have been irresponsible. Leeds Utd irresponsible. Portsmouth irresponsible. Bolton irresponsible.
The criticism of Villa’s conduct in January ignores the important fact that *they were already down* at the beginning of the month let alone on deadline day. Yes, not mathematically down but a Villa revival has been possible but not plausible since October. Buying anyone now would have been financially irresponsible….a waste. It’s Villa already down and two of Newcastle, Sunderland or Norwich. To even get to the same positon as Swansea and Bournemouth Villa’s form would have had to Bayern to shame….not plausible.
Villa fans, the rest of the season will suck but take it from someone who experienced it….being a giant in the Championship is quite fun. And with the huge number of fixtures, there is a good chance some youngsters will get their chance to make a break through and either become club heroes or good cash cows (Andy Carroll).
The club is actually a “winner” in that it has done what it can to ensure long term survival. Remi Garde though….poor guy. The job ain’t what they told him it was in the interview. Having said that, the worst thing he could do is walk away – he might get a reputation as a quitter. Plus a season in the championship will boost his winning numbers and offers the chance of a trophy on his CV.
Hugo (NUFC) Adelaide.
Did you really think he’d miss his chance?
So tonight, on official Groundhog Day, Arsene Wenger, after an inept transfer window (check), sees his team continue a mediocre sequence (check), and sees the “title challenge” they were odds-on for after Xmas (check), evaporate further with an insipid, dull goalless 90 minutes (following on from the previous 180 minutes without a goal. Check check).
And what’s that I see, Arsenal who were in a two-horse race now sit in fourth (check). And despite years of laughable excuses about “oil money”, Leicester and Spurs who spend less combined on wages are streets ahead.
Happy Groundhog Day!
Stewie Griffin (YAWN)