Arsenal’s few game-changers won in spite of Freddie…

Date published: Tuesday 10th December 2019 9:33 - Ian Watson

Let’s have ’em. Send your mails to…


Arsenal win in spite of Freddie
No, Ljungberg was not vindicated. That game was won by a few, very few Arsenal players who took it on themselves to turn the match around. Mr. Turnaround Freddy had been sat on his ass with his arms folded since West Ham scored. No emotion, no ideas, nothing.

Then half-time – let’s wake up the echoes, wake up the players, do something!

No, same sitting on his ass waiting for something to happen. No hooking Özil who was dozing his way though another game counting his paycheck, no rocket up the ass for Xhaka who spend as much of the game giving the ball to the opposition as he did passing to his own players. No incitement to play forward through the West Ham lines who looked like they were the away team and hoping to sit deep and hit on the break. No, not a damn thing.

Six starters turned up for Arsenal last night with any fire – Leno, Tierney, Torreira, Pepe, Martinelli and Aubameyang. One player was so anonymous he was simply a distraction wandering around in an Arsenal shirt as if he could help – pass to him and you might as well have passed the ball out of play. Arsenal would have been better off playing with ten men who cared or vaguely cared than 11 with Özil. They had half a player in Xhaka, the other half was playing for West Ham. So they’re playing 9 1/2 vs. 11 1/2. No wonder they make it hard on themselves.

Then, magically, four players decide to f*ck this, let’s play some football. And boom! 3 goals in what, eight minutes?

While Pepe was spending most of the game flat on his ass after being fouled time after time after time. Özil was looking at the clock wondering when he could saunter off and count his money for turning up. No-one fouled him, because there wasn’t any need. He wasn’t a threat all game. He was so lazy that when Pepe scored the second he would rather go and pick up the ball from the back of the net and then realize he should wander over to the corner for a chat rather than run to congratulate his team-mate. He needs to go, he’s a leech – on the club, his team-mates and the fans. I bet those stoppage-time minutes really p*issed him off, he had to wander around for twelve minutes that weren’t in his contract.

So no, this wasn’t a vindication for Ljungberg, nor a triumph for the team. This was a few players who decided between themselves to pick up their game and go and win one – for themselves, not for “the gaffer”, or a team boat anchor.

And I’m not an Arsenal fan. I just hate seeing anyone mail it in. Arsenal have some chance with a few players with pride. Ljundberg has none, and if he was moping around in his dugout seat because he’s been told the job is not for him in the long term, then at least that’s a start. Just kick his backside out of the door now and let the players’ collective – the five aforementioned – run the team.

The next move is to follow United’s lead, swallow the pride and half the paycheck, and ship Özil out to any fool who will have him. It seems to have worked for Man. U. with Sanchez, although on second thoughts Arsenal may need to swallow the entire paycheck.
Steve, Los Angeles


Swings and roundabouts
Are Man U still on the verge of relegation? I can’t see them near the bottom. Oh there they are in 5th. I must have misread the table the other week.

Spurs are doing terribly though right, sinking, failing, end of their cycle etc? What’s that, 1 point behind Man U. Never mind, my mistake.

Arsenal are definitely f**ked beyond all repair though right? Irreversible spiral of doom and despair, an irredeemable season, a relegation scrap just weeks away. Hm? One point behind Spurs is it? Huh. I guess I don’t know what’s going on any more.

Funny old season.
Alay, N15 Gooner


Marginal gains
Back when I was in college (or University- I’m a Yank), I had an economics professor who hosted a monthly meet-up, which they referred to as “Lunch at the Margins.” The idea was to have a discussion on a variety of topics and trends in the economic landscape while sharing a meal. The concept of margins in economics is that success and failure is due to forecasting where small gains can be achieved, and where you can avoid costs which will provide insufficient benefit.

The best football managers and directors must also think about the game in these terms, and looking at emerging trends it can not be a coincidence that the teams occupying the top two places in the Premier League table boast the two best sets of fullbacks. Conversely, Manchester City are currently struggling – and while there are several reasons for this, their lack of high-performing fullbacks is certainly one of them.

I am obviously not the first person to recognize this trend, but I think that it will be interesting to see how other teams might try to emulate Liverpool and Leicester’s success at the margins of the pitch. Maybe nobody grew up wanting to be a Gary Neville, but you can imagine young kids wanting to become Trent Alexander-Arnold or Ben Chilwell.
Dan, NYC


Creeping normalisation of hatred
Simon’s mail on racism in football (and society) was interesting and made some brave points – I’m sure you’ll get a few responses, but here’s one more. I don’t like the idea that ‘racism is woven into the fabric of society itself’, as Simon suggests, but I think it might be true, up to a point – I read an article a while back (in New Scientist, rather than any crazy far-right vehicle) on new scientific studies that had concluded racism could be a natural instinct in humans, a hangover from back when humans could only trust their own tribe not to attack them, and so it was important to be able to identify anyone who looked slightly different (or spoke a different language, or ate different food, etc) and feel fear or hatred towards them, simply for self-preservation.

That in no way legitimises it, though – being able to make conscious decisions and overrule our instincts is what makes us human rather than animals. It’s like learning where and where not to poop – our instincts might tell us to go wherever we are when we need to (e.g on the Gardener’s World show garden at Kew Gardens) but we’ve all learnt that it would be a pretty big faux pas to do so. But conversely, the more people (particularly prominent people such as Johnson) who put their heads above the parapet and offer racist comments and abuse publicly, the less other people worry about racism being a faux pas, and you get a snowball effect.

So I partly agree and partly disagree with Simon when he says ‘Brexit hasn’t empowered racists, it’s revealed the extent to which members of our society holds racist views’. I don’t believe Brexit was primarily a racist movement – from what I heard from Leave voters, it was partly a protest vote against the way the country was being run (austerity has caused chaos, to be fair) and in some specific areas, EU regulations impinging on fishing quotas and so on. But, there’s no doubt Cameron calling the referendum to appease the far-right wing of the Tory Party (including the ERG) and UKIP was a response to those groups becoming more popular and powerful. And part of the way they gained popularity is not by dyed-in-the-wool racists jumping on board (otherwise they would’ve always had strong support) but by teasing out people’s instinctive fears and hatred, as mentioned before. You can flag up how certain big sports department store workers are all from Eastern Europe and they’ve taken jobs, while ignoring the fact that the employer isn’t paying them minimum wage, which is why they were hired. Suddenly the problem is the immigrants rather than the dodgy employer, and you’re going to fix that problem, so you get a lot of (angry and disenfranchised) people on your side. Racist views can be stoked up in people from not very much at all to quite strong, particularly when times are tough (thanks to austerity).

That’s why Johnson is a worry to a lot of people. Simon mentions the Labour Party, but I’m not sure the racism there is quite comparable – I think there have been just over a 100 complaints amongst a membership base of 500,000, which is still too much, obviously, but it’s at grass-roots level and is presumably pretty hard to stamp out without very strict vetting procedures. Boris Johnson isn’t just a random member of the Conservative Party, he’s their leader – the main figurehead – and has written articles, actually thought about what to write knowing that they would be publicly read, offering various racist views. The thing there is that he’s not a stupid guy, he’s been well-educated and knows what he’s doing – by writing those things and repeatedly refusing to apologise, he’s deliberately appealing to the political right of the Conservative voter base, and those who might have previously voted for further-right parties. There are potential voters there and he’s made his moves to tap into it, rather than following what he believes to be morally right or best for Britain – remember this is the guy who wrote two articles for his newspaper column, one supporting Leave and one supporting Remain, and only chose which one to publish when he’d worked out which side would give him the best chance of becoming Prime Minister.

So we have a weird situation where the Prime Minister might not actually be as racist as his articles suggest, but his articles are helping to shift the Overton Window to the right, where people feel less worried about being seen to hold those views. That’s when you get the ‘creeping normalisation of hatred’ that Daniel Storey mentions – can anyone imagine Katie Hopkins being given a platform to say the things she says ten years ago? And the proof’s in the pudding when it comes to figures – hate crimes reported to the police in the UK have doubled since 2013. Which is pretty impressive since we’ve got 20,000 fewer police officers than in 2010.

I do agree with Simon that education is absolutely the way to suppress racist instincts. You can’t just say to people “If you have racist thoughts then you’re a terrible person” because that just gets people on the defensive and you won’t be able to change their views. You need to educate people young, introduce them to a broad range of cultures, and help them realise that just because someone speaks a different language and eats different food and has different colour skin, their life is still 99% the same as your own. You put your trousers on one leg at a time and you DO NOT poop on the Gardener’s World show garden. But when there’s political gain to be made from exploiting differences rather than promoting general harmony, that sort of education isn’t going to happen.

Just realised I’ve written nothing about actual football so: Danny Ings for the next England squad. Also Jamie Vardy’s on for 38 goals this season so if we could lure him out of retirement for Euro 2020 that’d be handy. I managed to convince him to join my fantasy team so it should be doable.

Dan (well that took ages), Hassocks


Black and white issue
The only guarantees in life are Death, Taxes and Racism.

Maybe it’s easy for me to say that, as a British born Asian who has grown up experiencing threats of “we’ll kick the shit out of you once we get inside the bar” and cheering England on with my England shirt whilst chants of “I’d rather be a p*ki than a Turk” ring all around me. Funnily enough, not that fussed about international football anymore…

Anyway. A quick mail on all the “I can’t believe it’s happening in 2019”.

Lads, it’s always been happening. You know who needs to step up? White people (yeh. I said it).

If black players are getting abused on a pitch, it shouldn’t be down to a black player to walk off or react. No. It should be his teammates. It should be front and centre the captains, the leaders, the Kane’s, the Henderson’s, whoever. Not asking the black players what they want to do. Actively step up and call it out, and show leadership.

I agree football can help fight the battle of racism in society (not solve it), but it needs to stop seeing it as an issue that affects black players. Front and centre leading the fight should be white players standing entirely in solidarity with their team mates, leading them off the pitch and saying “we aren’t going to stand for it”.

Dip, North Stand Tottenham.


…I was happy to lay the racism talk aside, because frankly we all agree that racism is bad and football could do more to stop it but one step at a time and all that. What I’m not happy to leave aside is Simon in yesterday afternoon’s mailbox trying to let Boris Johnson off the hook for his racism. Gary Neville is entirely correct in what he said, and a bit of whataboutery does not change that.

To be clear: Boris Johnson referred to black people as “picaninnies with watermelon smiles” and Muslim women as “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. He is overtly and unashamedly racist. Jonhson has never issued any kind of apology for these statements whatsoever.

Jeremy Corbyn has spoken up in support of Palestine. Whether you support that or not is irrelevant, he has never made any statement of any kind against the Jewish people. All the accusations of this are based around comments made by Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, a man who calls Boris Johnson a ‘longstanding personal friend’. Mr Corbyn has also made public apologies for any anti-Semitism within the Labour party and has spoken out against it.

Prince Philip is hardly an influential figure these days so I don’t see how he’s really relevant to this discussion. But the point is, equating Johnson and Corbyn is very much wide of the mark.

But anyway, what I actually wanted to discuss, having not seen any mention of it on F365 at all, was that the World Anti-Doping Agency has issued Russia with a four-year ban from all sporting competition. The previous World Cup hosts, literally last year, will not be allowed to take part in the next world Cup because they’ve been cheating. How is this not front page news!?
Harry, THFC (Sorry it took me so long to get to something football-related)


Ole rope
Right, there’s no need for the over-and-back to drag on, but there’s two specific points worth rebutting from Monty and Don respectively.

Monty- Nobody hinted at you not celebrating whatever ye want. My mail was a response to an entire mailbox stuffed with “How dare you not have acknowledged Ole, now you’re eating humble pie, eh?” mails. Which is frankly a ridiculous sentiment.

Don- Whilst (love to drop in a whilst) 5th is indeed higher than 7th, are you honestly claiming it’s the difference between the above triumphalism about a manager’s performance and sacking him? What’s 6th? A wet handshake?

Bemused as I was at the first mailbox, the fact that the lads are so furious that they’re picking such meagre objections as above in any criticism of Fergie 2.0 is more bemusing still.

It would almost make you think that they’re desperately trying to convince themselves rather than genuinely assured that they finally have the right man.

I’ll only re-iterate- if he left United tomorrow, there isn’t a team in the league would be interested. Good luck to him, but there’s not a single argument keeping him in that job other than diminished expectation.
Darragh, Spurs, Ireland


City sussed?
I would caution Duck about his glee at Manchester City being “found out”. The best example of their current foibles being exploited was Norwich early in the season, who were excellent at penetrating the first line of City’s press exactly as Duck identifies.

The problem is, what Norwich did is really difficult. Watch the chances they created, it generally involved a midfielder winning the ball and then managing to pop the ball past an onrushing City midfielder to an overlapping teammate, who then rampages past an exposed centre half. Great! But that relies on the midfielder being capable of seeing and executing that pop, and waiting long enough that the pressing City player is completely committed to that challenge. If the midfielder passes too early, the city player can just drop back and tackle or foul. Wait too long, and they’ll nick the ball back while your mate is busting a gut running the wrong way, which is when City have you.

Liverpool, United and Norwich have exposed this because beating traps is a fundamental part of their game. Someone like Burnley, Everton or Sheffield might just not have the players without that skillset. (Not a criticism of any of them, they’re plenty good at other things, they just don’t happen to have City kryptonite).

City are probably coming to the end of their cycle in some way shape or form, but they will likely be back to their devastating best when their injuries start to heal.
Dan, Plastic LFC


…Wow, Man City have been sussed! Bravo! Errr, not really man. They’re the only team I’ve seen the past one & half season to come to Anfield & attack us like they did and if Aguero had been ruthless in that match and with a little bit of luck (or Man Utd Atkinson had been the VAR referee, cough.. cough..) they could have drawn or even beaten us, make no mistake about that.

Pep has always set out his Man City team to play a certain way and everyone knows how they play but has anyone in the league been able to stop them for the past 2 seasons? Everyone knows how Messi plays but can anyone stop him? Pep’s only flaw is his stubbornness to play this way even without his trusted personnel playing in the roles they are really excellent at and this has been discussed to death that even Pep must be knocking his head against the wall at his own stubbornness (or his misplaced dodged determination to constantly proved to everyone he’s the Messi of football coaches?).

Please understand this, when Laporte is back, Fernandinho is back to playing to his usual position with Rodri as his excellent understudy, Sane is back to terrorise the left flank, Sterling goes right, the younger Silva moves back to his central position as the rightful heir to the older Silva, KDB goes berserk even with his babyface look ala OGS back in the days (lols!), Aguero is rotated enough with Jesus to still make him relevant (c’mon he’s still the top 3 forwards in the league even at his age!), and they finally spent another gazillion pounds on a proper modern leftback (whatever that mean F365, huh?), believe me, you, they’ll be back. Maybe not this season as I’ve a feeling Pep has written the league off this season, but definitely next season.

Yes, thats a lot of ifs but honestly, where else can he go, both his nemesis are in still in this league, Mou & Klopp. I don’t think Pep cares a hoot about Zidane or Sarri or Conte or Nagelsmann or Favre. He needs a proper fight and he knows no other coaches is on par with him other than Klopp in world football right now. Klopp is his rightful nemesis, they drive each other on. Its like that M. Night Shyamalan movie, Unbreakable. Now who is Bruce Willis’s character and who is Samuel L. Jackson’s depends on which tribal fence u’re sitting on.

But I friggin’ love that movie.
Veni (LFC, in case its not obvious enough)


…Now Duck, there is rubbish talk but, my lord, you have taken rubbish talk to another level.
“Pep has been sussed out” because of how Bruce and Ole played against them.Now,I support Liverpool so I would love if that were true but that’s utter rubbish.
On Saturday against Utd City had 72% possession, had 23 shots and this is them being found out??Lets be honest,on another day if City were a bit more clinical they could have scored 6 or 7, just the final ball let them down. Perrera also should have been red carded which would have completely changed the game.They were also missing Laporte, Sane and Aguero.
They also should have scored 6 or 7 against Newcastle.

City are into the next round of the CL, they are 3rd in the league(9 ahead of Utd) & Pep is the one who has been sussed out??
Utd drew with Villa at home 8 days ago, Poch out was Trending and now all of a sudden Ole is a master tactician??
Utd have lost to Palace,N’castle & B’mouth, surely by your rationale Ole was found out as well??
City actually lost away to N’castle last year so surely drawing there shows an improvement??
God bless your poor wife if she has to listen to you pontificating this tripe over and over so on her behalf can I just point out you are talking complete and utter rubbish.Teams have good and bad runs during a season and technically City are still league champions, fa cup holders and league cup holders.
Ole will draw or lose to Everton and #OLEOUT #POCHIN will be trending Sunday night.


…Tom (premier league neutral)’s little diatribe about F365 apparently refusing to call out Manchester City had me scratching my head, then marveling at the wind-up, then back to scratching my head. I think the lad really believes that what he wrote is true. Despite the fact that over the past month, City have featured at or near the top of the Losers section more often than they’ve been winners.

I guess Tom didn’t notice the call out of their racist fans or “Manchester City’s disorganization” topping the Losers this week. Or “Manchester City’s title challenge” being named a Loser last week, when Pep was also the Early Loser. Surely he must have seen “Manchester City’s defence” or “…their inability to come from behind” as the top Losers last month.

Not to mention the fact that of course it is newsworthy/interesting that Man City are struggling (compared to their own lofty standards) this year. And that a squad this loaded with talent and managed by Pep, is suffering this much from self-inflicted wounds like not replacing Kompany, disrupting team shape/continuity by moving Fernandinho back, or continuing to start Angeliño in big matches. Nope, it’s clearly City365 and their Nefarious Agenda.
Danny, LFCNY


…To Duck’s excellent points re: Man City Sussed, I would add that City have not been as effective this year with their niggly fouls that prevent a fast counter attack.

They have always been vulnerable to fast break, especially when their full backs have pushed forward into midfield or further upfield. The difference was the little Fernandino push, tap, lean or some other ‘minor’ offense that disrupted the breakaway.

In some cases it is the clever and accurate pass that has gone over the rear midfield preventing the easy foul but it does appear that Rodri is a little more ethical than Fernandino when playing at the base of City’s midfield.

Never a lover of United but hats off to Ole and their front three as they looked excellent whenever they moved forward yesterday. One CB, LB and attacking midfielder (if Pogba leaves) away from a pretty decent team.
Paul McDevitt


Pep’s gear
Is Pep the worst dressed manager in the league?

It shouldn’t matter – it doesn’t matter, be fair – but if Big Sam, Wenger, Ole or another tabloid fodder favourite wore his garb, there’d be a mega-clicks Mailonline gallery in no time.

The guy is flapping around losing in tight green combats and a horrific shiny bomber jacket. That and the very questionable Stone Island phase and grey hoodie phase he went through, he dresses like he stole his gear from a ticket tout outside the ground.

Paul Scholes lost it over Ljungberg’s sweater – no-one mentions Pep.

Any Brummies will remember The Officers Club. Pep’s stepped straight off their promotional boards.

Tip of the hat to Graeme Souness who usually gets it right – sober, dignified, no combat trousers – well away from the “too tight trousers,” Sky Sports boys.
Andy J


Ashton on shaky ground
So Dean Ashton claims that arsenal would have been off with Gary Cahill or johnny Evans instead of David Luiz. There’s certainly an argument for it but what I cannot understand is Ashton then claiming we’ve all been laughing at David Luiz over the last six years. He is aware in the last 6 years since 2013 Luiz has won the premier league, the Fa cup, the Europa league (×2), all the French trophies twice except the French league cup which he won once and the confederations cup with Brazil. If Mr Ashton would like to go a year further back to 2012 he can add the champions league and another FA cup to that collection. I wonder what part of that he finds funny when in comparison to his own collection of a second division runners up medal with Crewe Alexandra and fa cup runners up medal. Pretty big claims to be making from a potless ex pro.
Aaron. CFC. Ireland.


Vintge JN
Johnny Nic back to his incisive allegorical best for me. Fabulous writing capturing our insatiable existential obsession with what might be now, if only we had someone better in charge of us. Providing descriptions of how we have a need for a Svengali to sell us an instant panacea to believe in where there really is no need for structural change or changes in our own thinking and behaviour. Just excite and numb us to our dystopian present please Sven and keep us hanging on in there we say rather than thinking and behaving differently.

Of course he could just have been talking about football management and not wider human processes such as global heating or the accumulation of wealth and inequality. It is a football website after all. Politics and sport and all that. Either way, spot on Johnny!
David lfc


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