Arsenal: From flat-track to bumpy bullies (and back?)

Date published: Tuesday 12th March 2019 12:09

Arsenal Manchester United

Plot twist
Back in October, Stan Collymore accidentally predicted that Arsenal would win the title with 102 points, when he wrote that ‘the vast majority of your players are still those Arsene Wenger left and that means your side will win 90 per cent of their games and lose the other fixtures they’re expected to lose’. Not for the first time, his grasp of percentages was shocking but Mediawatch suspects that what he meant was that Arsenal would beat smaller sides but come up short against the elite.

After that proved to be bollocks – Arsenal have picked up 12 points from ten Big Six games which reaped just six points last season – Collymore has switched his focus. Instead of Arsenal standing accused of being flat-track bullies, they are now the opposite. Bumpy track bullies?

In Tuesday’s Daily Mirror, Collymore writes:

‘ARSENAL produced a very good all-round performance against Manchester United on Sunday.

‘But what I want to know whether they can play that kind of football with the same intensity against the also-rans they will now face for the rest of the season and not just turn it on against a side like United.

‘Because if they can, then maybe I’ll start to believe Unai Emery is building not just a decent football team, which Arsenal have had for years, but one that finally has some resilience as well.’

Pesky fact: Arsenal have dropped only 12 points against the ‘also-rans’ this season – just one more than Manchester City, as many as Chelsea and Tottenham, and two fewer points than Manchester United. Oh and in their last eight Premier League games, they have only dropped points against City and Tottenham, two teams above them in the table. In fact, only City have conceded fewer goals in that eight-game run, which makes them sound a little bit ‘resilient’.

Curse those all-terrain track bullies.


I’m still standing
Martin Keown, March 9: ‘Victory will give them belief that they can finish in the top four, just as beating United in 1998 gave us the belief that we could win the title.’

Martin Keown, March 10: ‘This was a huge result for Unai Emery and Arsenal. It will give them the belief they can not only finish in the top four, but ahead of Tottenham, too.’

Martin Keown, March 12: ‘On August 6, a week before the start of the season, I predicted this top four – Liverpool, Man City, Spurs, Man Utd – and I’m standing by it.’

Yep, you stick to your guns, Martin.


Grates of wrath
By the way, anybody writing that ‘Martin Keown has risked the wrath of Arsenal fans with his Premier League top four predictions’ (Mirror) really has no sodding clue a) how fans work and b) how Martin Keown is perceived. Trust us, Arsenal fans really will not give a shiny shite.


Master and servant
Mediawatch has been impressed with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s management but this from Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail has just made us a little sick in our mouth:

‘In France last week, Solskjaer changed his strategy three times in the game, including a masterful switch to two right-backs – one operating conventionally, the other more as a wing-back – that shut down Paris Saint-Germain after half-time.’

And why did he need that ‘masterful switch’? Because he had for some reason elected to start the game without a right-back at all. He f***ed it. And then he mended it. Give the man credit for fixing his mistake but let’s not pretend that makes him a genius.


Pots and pans
Nobody wants to read about Manchester City – and Arsenal’s win over Manchester United sliced through a lot of narratives on Sunday – so how do you generate clicks on a cold Tuesday morning?

‘Premier League title race: The wrong decisions that have cost Liverpool five points’

That’s how. By claiming that the officials have basically robbed Liverpool of the lead in the Premier League title race. It’s genius.

The Daily Mirror website have absolutely nailed this as they write that…

* ‘Pep Guardiola’s side got a stroke of luck against title rivals Liverpool at the Etihad later in the season when Vincent Kompany was lucky to stay on the field for his lunge on Mo Salah. City went on to win the game, but would have arguably lost it had Kompany seen red in the first half. Assuming that decision cost Liverpool three points…’

That’s one hell of an assumption.

* ‘…they saw another couple go begging against Leicester in January. Sadio Mane put them in front as the Reds looked to go seven points clear of City at the top. But Harry Maguire should have seen red for a trip on the Senegalese thereafter, and the England defender levelled for the Foxes before the break.

‘Liverpool were also denied a penalty when Ricardo Pereira fouled Naby Keita in the second half. If the Reds would have gone on to collect the victory, as would have been likely against 10 men, it would have been another two points on their total.’

Basically, give them the trophy. And give James Whaling a medal for one of the most inspired pieces of clickbait we have ever seen.


May the force…
Quite how The Sun’s Charlie Wyett can claim an ‘exclusive’ on his report that ‘ALEXIS SANCHEZ may have to look for a loan move away from Manchester United’ is anybody’s guess. The ‘may’ is one hell of a clue that it’s a classic attempt to fill a Tuesday back page after a blank Monday night. And he may have just about got away with it.


This aged well
‘ZINEDINE ZIDANE wants the Chelsea job – if they match his terms and ambition. The French legend is keen to talk seriously about taking over as boss and turn the Blues into contenders again at home and abroad with a £200m transfer kitty’ – The Sun ‘exclusive’ by Dean Scoggins on February 18.


SEO dream headline of the day
‘Neymar, Mbappe, Pogba, Hazard and Kante… how Real Madrid could line up with new generation of Galacticos under Zidane’ – The Sun.

That ‘could’ is doing an awful lot of work.


Assault and battery
‘FOURTEEN weeks in jail is not long enough for the offence,’ says Stan Collymore in the Daily Mirror after the Birmingham fan who attacked Jack Grealish was imprisoned. ‘It should have been three or four years because that’s the sort of sentence the rest of us would have been looking at for a similar pre-meditated and unprovoked assault.’

Which is quite the claim from a man who attacked his girlfriend, TV star Ulrika Jonsson, in a Paris bar because she was having a drink with Ally McCoist. As reporter Martin Geissler said at the time: “He dragged her out of the bar into a back room, pushed her to the ground and aimed kicks at her head. She was lying on the ground screaming and bar staff then grabbed Collymore and threw him out.”

The same reporter told the story again in 2014 and said: “Arms were raised, a fist flew. He claims it was a slap. A single strike with an open hand. From where I was standing it looked like a solid hook to the jaw. She fell to the ground and he kicked her. Her arms were raised to protect her face and head but he booted her, more than once.

“There was uproar, I shouted at him to stop and stepped in front of him, but he threw me off.”

Did we miss the part where Stan Collymore was sent to prison for three or four years for that unprovoked assault?


Gutter nonsense
Elsewhere, the Daily Mail persist with their theme that Sunday was the ‘day that shamed our game’. Not Birmingham City, not one particular Birmingham City fan, but ‘our game’. Yes, all of it.

We feel a little sorry for Ian Herbert, who writes a reasoned and reasonable article about who could be to blame for a handful of fans getting on the pitch this season, only to see this as the headline:


Want to take a guess how many times Herbert mentions that football is ‘in the gutter’?

Yep. You’re right.


Recommended reading of the day
Daniel Storey on OWNA FC

Alex Clapham on Schalke’s production line

Miguel Delaney on a Champions League throwback in Munich


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