Five examples of Arsenal smugness as Spurs are tipped for a title challenge

Editor F365
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta looking smug
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta overseeing training

Arsenal and their smugness are being punished in the Premier League by Spurs, who have Yves Bissouma being better than Declan Rice.

Send your views on all subjects to


The uncurable smugness of Arsenal
Arsenal did well last season before choking.

They needed to improve to progress to the next level, so what did they do?

    • Introduced competition for their starting keeper, presumably to undermine his confidence.
    • Continued with the pre-Covid Pep tribute act, playing with inverted non-fullbacks packing the midfield, deliberately providing no defensive cover.
    • Spaffed an extraordinary amount of money on an unnecessary upgrade of a pretty decent CDM.
    • Bailed out Chelsea overstocked shelves of wannabe No.8’s who 500+ Chelsea managers have decided can’t play in central midfield/added the Prem’s worst xG merchant to the other Top 2 (now Bamford has been relegated).
    • Ignored the Gabriel Jesus problem – recap: Pep eventually played him on the wing until he could upgrade him for the same 50 million Arsenal paid. Against Spurs, Jesus both played on the wing (instead of Martinelli?) and wasted the one big chance that would have won the game for Arsenal. Of course, Arteta seems to have his cheerleaders – that 10-1 blended team looked a bit one-sided before the game, and a bit daft after it.

As for Spurs, this is the first time Ange has attempted “Ange ball” with Tier 1 talent (no sniggering at the back). With all due respect to Celtic, his Japanese team, and various Aussies, this Spurs team could get a whole lot better with time and practice.

Already, Romero, Udogie, Bissouma, and Maddison are looking like world-beaters. I’m going to call it…Spurs, no Europe to worry about, have every chance of winning the Premier League.

Not sure how smug Arteta will be then.
Matthew (ITFC)


Arsenal got Champions Leagued v Spurs
I hate to break this to the likes of Stewie et al but maybe Arsenal didn’t win yesterday because Spurs may actually be a good team.

Credit where it’s due. They had the week off. We had our first Champions League match and had no left side to speak of due to both Martinelli and Trossard not being available.

I think our struggles speak of a bigger problem. For varying reasons, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea have dropped out of Europe’s premier competition this season.

It seems like City are the only club that can successfully combine Champions League with Premier League football.

And this may sound like sacrilege but I’ve never seen Arsenal win the Champions League so I’d actually take an opening-day CL win over a win in the derby.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Arsenal having a laugh v Spurs
It’s amazing how far Arsenal have come under Arteta, in that they took to the pitch yesterday with only 10 men (Eddie is not good enough to be a top flight professional. Don’t say otherwise, you know I’m right. He must have some really good dirt on Arteta).

And then, to laugh at Spurs even more, Arsenal started the second half with only 9 men! (Havertz. Really? Anyone?).

Classic p***-take.

Didn’t quite work out of course, but with no Martinelli or Trossard, Rice injured in the first half, 10 then funnier still, 9 men and once again playing without a centre forward who can hit the target from 16 yards, I think we did OK.

Just imagine playing with 11….
Stu – Optimistic Gooner in France


Bissouma > Rice
When I read Bissouma is no Declan Rice I thought it was meant as he’s just so much better….but I was mistaken apparently.

I’m sure there are people who think Rice is better, there is certainly one, but let’s be serious and not judge a player based on their nationality*, price tag and wage.

*this is a good judgement of someone’s character too…a turncoat is a turncoat.
Dan Mallerman


Free-kicks inside the area please
As a Spurs fan and a legal philosopher (honest!) I am driven to write into the mailbox for the first time since my mail regarding Lionel Messi’s faux-ermine suit winning him the Ballon d’Or (must have been 6 or 7 years ago) won me the top place at the mailbox. This will be box office. I am Quentin Tarantino returning from a hiatus.

I have a whole book to write about natural justice, VAR and its place in football (spoiler alert – it has none), but the events of this weekend just crystallised my thinking on the handball law as it is written and as it is applied. Both must be looked at, as they are the failings in the application of the law are a result of how contrived the law is.

But first a little legal theory. Let us go back to the “good old days” when PFMs would tell us that everyone knew what the handball law was. They didn’t, but generally it was believed that intentional handball was a penalty, and if it was accidental it was no pen. This is actually what I would advocate now. Mens rea is important in determining whether a crime has been committed.

The drafting of the current law and its focus on “natural position” is in fact a way of determining whether there is intent or not. If you are moving unnaturally you can only be doing so because you intended to handball: why else would you be moving unnaturally? But, like the football gods they are, footballers move in mysterious ways (exhibit A: Raheem Sterling).

There are two other factors to bring to light here. First, nobody really cares about a handball being given on the halfway line if it is accidental. These are routinely given where there is no advantage to the team who did not handle the ball and/ or an advantage to the team who did. Second, as the rules are currently constructed, the only sanction available to the referee when a handball foul is committed by an outfield player (but not a goalkeeper) is a direct free kick. This doesn’t matter on the halfway line as Bobby Carlos has now retired, but it certainly does in the penalty area where this becomes a penalty and almost certainly a goal. Given the low number of game changing/ scoring moments in a football match, this can decide a game.

The obvious solution to me seems to be that deliberate handball is a direct free kick, but unintentional handball is an indirect free kick. That seems like justice in that there is sanction, and retribution for the advantage gained, but not at the expense of turning the match on an unfortunate incident based on speculation as to how someone would move when diving/ falling.

It would be easy to administer as (especially with TV replays) it is quite easy to see whether someone has deliberately handballed or not, and if there is any doubt as to the mens rea, then there is an indirect free kick. We would also have a whole load of fun and games with walls on the goal line and attempted thunderbastards from close range into the top corner (like the Sheringham/ Shearer one from some time in the late 90s.

Easy innit.
Rishi (not that one) N17


More on that handball
Matt Stead and John Nicholson cannot agree if it was handball or not, and neither it seems can much of the footballing fandom. A shot on target, not the best shot either, it was a bit of a bouncer… from close range hits Romero on the hand. Romero was doing what a good defender would do and was trying to block the shot. Did he intend to block it? Yes. Did he intend to block it with his hand? No. Did it hit his hand though? Yes. I have to say I thought it was a pretty clear penalty and, after my eye-rolling at the referee Rob Jones actually going to the screen to view the incident, (I was sure we weren’t going to get it), he took a couple of quick looks and gave what was, to me, a pretty straightforward decision. Penalty.

So why did that decision take so long? I think it’s because, over the years, the concept of “intention” has crept in to the decision-making. I’m not just talking about handballs by the way, I’m talking about all kinds of little decisions.

Players 1 and 2 both jump for a header, and player 1’s elbow hits player 2 in the nose. “Oh he didn’t intend to do that”, the co-commentator will claim ,”you can’t jump without using your elbows”. But that’s missing the point. I absolutely accept that the elbows help obtain some leverage in the jump, but at the same time you’ve just whacked someone in the nose and bloodied it with that same elbow. Did you intend to? No. But did you? Yes. It’s a foul.

Handball is the same. Defenders have the unenviable task of blocking shots with any part of the body that they can, aside from the part of the body which is the body’s natural response to defending itself. You wouldn’t try blocking a punch with your hands behind your back would you? If it hits your hand then it’s handball. The fact that the defenders actively try to get their hands out of the way in the first place shows that they understand this rule. (Naturally there are some awfully unlucky ricochets in football which strike a hand, and I would agree that sometimes it’s not a handball).

But INTENTION is the murky part here. No one INTENDS to foul. No one INTENDS to digress. But they do. I’m sure Eddie Nketiah doesn’t intend to be offside all the time, but he is. Etc.

That’s why we introduced VAR, was it not? Intention is too murky, so let’s just go back to basics.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite


…As a United fan, clearly bitter over the non penalty for Romero’s handball when United played spurs, that aside I think people are missing a crucial part in the build up to Romero’s handball and that was the handball by Ben White before he shoots. I am confused as a fan, as to what handball is now and I hope to explain why I am confused.

If Ben White, handles the ball, shoots and scores then the goal is disallowed as any handball by an attacking player is deemed to be an advantage so the goal is disallowed. The only difference here is that Ben White’s shot clearly hits Romero’s arm (again United did not get a penalty for a similar incident due to proximity) but no one has looked at the build up and the ball hitting Ben White on the arm giving him control and advantage, I just don’t get it? The rules contradict each other.

The worst thing is, it was not even the worst penalty call this weekend, the Luton penalty was shocking, absolutely 100% the wrong decision was made. Notable mentions to Nketiah late challenge, one of those depends on the player who makes it, if that was Casemiro it would have been a straight red (still bitter)

Final note, I thought the NLD was a great game, very impressed with Arsenal 1st half but credit to Spurs they were excellent and played with 4-5 yellow cards for a long period of time but kept their discipline. Liverpool going about their business and I think will be the only team to give City a run but it will be all over in March.
Paul (MUFC) Dublin


Liverpool should be replacing Salah now
Over the last couple of months I’ve repeatedly heard people say the same thing – you can’t replace Salah’s goals and assists. The guy is a goal machine.

That’s all true.

I am of the opinion he can be replaced. In fact every Liverpool fan SHOULD be of the opinion he can. Not for any ‘club is bigger’ nonsense. We HAVE to believe he is replaceable. Let me explain.

If we are saying that we can’t sell Salah (for a sum that could buy two or three players ) then we have a much bigger problem – total collapse.

He is not immortal and sooner or later his impact will wane. What do we do then? He isn’t replaceable remember so we just have to accept we will become a bad team that barely scores.

We have to accept he is replaceable or we are instead accepting we will decline and nothing can be done about it.

Cast your minds back a couple of years to when we just won the title. And some of our midfielders were reaching slightly past their peak years. We didn’t replace those players because we thought we could squeeze a few more years out of them. How did that work out for us?

Those players were kept mostly because of loyalty. They weren’t replaced because of stupidity. We are doing the same with Salah. The key to winning constant titles is to constantly move in and out pieces which fit and don’t. Fergie was pretty good at, Pep is good at that. I’d argue its Klopp’s biggest blindspot (maybe because it’s the one area of football management he had no experience until now).

Don’t move on players that are quite up to it anymore and you decline. Don’t buy new players to fix weaknesses and you decline. Had we done that prior to the almost quad season maybe that almost would have been actual history instead.

Salah is replaceable. That’s not to say it’s easy. But it is possible and probable and if rather solve that problem now while he’s still extremely capable than in a year or two when suddenly he’s not scoring and we are struggling to string two wins together.

Should we sell him? No. But we should start the process of replacing him now.


Or not?
Some robust responses to my email about keeping Mo Salah – and absolutely fair enough, everyone has their opinions and I doubt ours will closely align any time soon.

If I may have a short right to reply, I would say two things, firstly I don’t think I was being dismissive merely adding my thoughts on the topic, but apologies if that’s how it came across.

Secondly and more to the footballing issue, what I was really driving at could indeed be interpreted as a ‘secret option D’, which might be that we keep hold of our one-off World class player and use him to help us win some trophies in the short-term, then eventually we can all watch him retire at Liverpool and walk off in to the sunset without the bitter taste of watching him ply his trade in another jersey.

Absolutely I concede we shouldn’t throw money at him ala Messi – the Saudi league has changed the game there – maybe though, just maybe, he could be convinced. Especially as alluded to, we’re not talking about Ronaldo being 35+, or Mane having a tough time at Bayern. At the end of his current contract I believe you would still get two more very high level seasons. Potentially trophy winning seasons at the highest level of English and European football, not a retirement home of a league. I’m looking at Modric, Kroos and Benzema and thinking how much they offered to Real over the last few seasons – there’s something to be said for keeping hold of that talent and experience for as long as possible.

Probably unrealistic in the modern financial game, but I think our chances to win trophies are only enhanced with Salah at the club. £150m can be spent very badly, very quickly.
Marc (who am I kidding, eh? Everyone takes the money eventually)