Who better to analyse the problems at Arsenal than a Liverpool-supporting reporter with a mandate to report on European football?
Step forward Antony Kastrinakis of The Sun. Mediawatch rubbed its hands with glee when it read that ‘there was a visible gap betwen right-back James Tomkins and centre-half Angelo Ogbonna’; what was apparently not visible to Kastrinakis was that Tomkins did not play at right-back (nobody did) and Ogbonna was actually the left-sided centre-half in a three-man defence. So we had a feeling there would be gold in them there hills as he ‘analysed’ Arsenal. It didn’t disappoint.
Kastrinakis begins: ‘ARSENAL’S defence is totally indefensible. Easily bullied. Soft. Naïve. Individually, Hector Bellerin, Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are not rubbish. But the sum of the parts is. The walking liability known as Per Mertesacker was not even on the pitch.
‘Isn’t it funny the Wenger empire was built on a defence he inherited from George Graham — and they have not won the League in 12 years since the likes of Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn left?’
Funny? Or just lazily wrong?
Arsenal last won the Premier League title in 2003/04. You might remember it; they were rather good.
Steve Bould left in 1999.
Nigel Winterburn left in 2000.
Lee Dixon and Tony Adams left in 2002.
Martin Keown was actually still at the club in 2003/04 and started a grand total of three Premier League games.
‘It stands as a damning indictment of Wenger’s inability to put together five players that provide the base for success,’ writes Kastrinakis.
Five names for you, Anthony: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole.
Question of the day
For Kastrinakis: Can Arsene Wenger ‘make the wrong team selection’ while simultaneously leaving the ‘walking liability known as Per Mertesacker’ on the bench?
Hold on steady
In this week's edition of "Who does Garth Crooks have at DM in his team of the week?" It's Jason Puncheon. pic.twitter.com/iMrEQa7nWb
— Paddy (@VieiraPaddy) April 10, 2016
It was Troy Deeney. And now it’s Jason Puncheon. He’ll be crying again.
As usual, Crooks’ selection is not only initially mental but there are some wonderful nuggets hidden within. Basically, Crooks is a man with many, many opinions about the Premier League and his team of the week is simply a device. How else can you explain the inclusion of Kasper Schmeichel despite the Leicester keeper making just one save against Sunderland that did not even deserve a mention in the BBC match report?
And why is Schmeichel so excellent at keeping clean sheets when the opposition is not shooting? Because of his father, of course.
Crooks ‘writes’: ‘Schmeichel knows, of course, the value of clean sheets – his father Peter, one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation, would have told him so. Schmeichel senior kept 18 of them when Manchester United won Sir Alex Ferguson’s first league title in 1993. The qualities needed to win a Premier League title might have also dominated a few conversations between father and son. At least that would explain all the clean sheets recently and the calming influence.’
Exactly right. But who told Peter Schemichel (or Joe Hart, David De Gea or Petr Cech) about the importance of clean sheets? Without a goalkeeping legend for a father, were they not just letting in goals willy-nilly and merrily thinking that they would win the Premier League regardless? Mediawatch’s father was just a wages clerk so we had absolutely no clue that goalkeepers should try not to let in many goals.
One more question: Why didn’t Daddy speak up in the first few months of the season when Kasper let in 17 goals in his first nine games?
* Crooks on Divock Origi: ‘I had real reservations about Liverpool winning the Europa League with Origi leading the line but I think I am going to have to revise my position.’
And his apparently. For reasons of crowbarring, Origi is a ‘midfielder’.
* Crooks on Swansea: ‘This has been a very difficult season for Swansea, particularly since the sacking of former manager Garry Monk.’
A reminder, if one were required, that Swansea sacked Monk because they had just 14 points from 15 games after a run of just one victory in 11 attempts. Since Monk’s departure, they have picked up 26 points from 18 matches. As Andy Townsend would say: “That’s better.”
Sou what have you been drinking?
Mediawatch presumes you have seen this already, but it certainly merits repetition. This is Graeme Souness’ frankly mental Premier League team of the season:
Shout out to Graeme Souness for putting Branislav Ivanovic in his Premier League team of the season. pic.twitter.com/dXRlQ4tGaA
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) April 10, 2016
So no N’Golo Kante, no Riyad Mahrez, but a place for Branislav Ivanovic (comfortably the worst right-back in the first half of the season) and a place for Daley Blind ahead of Chris Smalling?
This is all the more bizarre because Souness named Mahrez as one of his signings of the season in December and then in February he noted that “if anything happened to Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez they’d struggle”. Still not good enough for Souey’s team of the season, mind.
But Branlislav sodding Ivanovic? It’s the worst right-back selection since John Terry revealed his PFA team of the year – written in the handwriting of a 12-year-old girl – and picked Smalling despite him not playing a single minute in that position all season.
Worst intro of this or any other day
‘FORGET Geordie Shore. It’s more like Geordie UNSURE’ – Vikki Orvice, The Sun.
Buck-passing quote of the day
“A lot of players we brought in this summer were like Bakary Sako from the Championship. It was a step up for them” – Alan Pardew.
Pesky fact: Crystal Palace bought four players last summer; one was from the Championship.
Five ridiculous headlines from more successful websites
‘United ‘going backwards’ under Van Gaal, says Reds legend’ – Metro. Paul Scholes? Ryan Giggs? Luke Chadwick? No. Jamie Carragher. Ah, those Reds.
‘Rooney makes his Manchester United comeback tonight…but how does his £300,000-a-week wages compare with the U21 team-mates he’ll line up with?’ – MailOnline. And who wrote that sodding headline?
‘Liverpool transfer shock: First-team star goes on social media blitz after being dropped’ – Express. It’s Jordon Ibe. And he hasn’t started a Premier League game in three months.
‘Transfer News: Liverpool ace’s stunning move, Mourinho talks Man Utd, Arsenal open talks’ – Express. Yes, it’s still Jordon Ibe.
‘Man United boss LvG to wreck Arsenal’s transfer plans by signing brilliant international’ – Metro. We suspect even Andrew Robertson himself would not recognise that description.
Takes one to know one
Mediawatch notes that both Charlie Wyett and John Cross were in Sunderland for the Leicester game. Do they still agree on everything?
— TFS Leicester City (@TFS_Leicester) November 5, 2015
Recommended reading of the day
Stats Bomb on Southampton
David Hytner on Mousa Dembele
Thore Haugstad on where Arsenal went wrong