Chelsea and Arsenal fans unite in disappointment

Date published: Thursday 11th January 2018 9:35

Not a classic match so not a classic mailbox. Mail us at


Too many Arsenal players are filling in a crap sandwich
I chatted with a fellow Gooner earlier about that great intangible, character, and how much our beloved Arse are lacking in that particular department right now; personality, temperament, constitution… And of course, dear Arsene’s favourite, ‘Mentality’. My buddy reckoned that Wilshere is the only player currently displaying the requisite amount of character, which is a bit harsh maybe. But first, what really makes up ‘character’ in a Premier League team? Every team has a player with personality. Every team has someone with a calm head, and balls for the fight. Most will claim to have a boss instilling the winning, or at worst, battling, mentality required.

But character can have two faces. We have, on one hand, Wilshere’s front-foot, head-up, drive, passion, and flair, and on the other, Sanchez’ hands-out, head-down, me-me-me, passion and flair. Each have their strong points, each are flawed.

For an example of positive character, look no further than young Maitland-Niles. He’s just a few games into his first-team career, yet he oozes it as far as I’m concerned; confident on the ball, his head is always up, a cheeky grin when bested. He’s not without faults, but always plays positively. Kudos here to Özil, Mustafi, Monreal, Iwobi (just one final ball, ever, please?), Bellerin, Welbeck (another guy achingly lacking in end product).

On the flip side, we see star man Alexis constantly berating teammates, seemingly no matter what they try, while freely giving the ball away himself. Lacazette doesn’t try hard enough, and drops his head come 60mins, though he potentially gets benefit of the doubt. Then we’ve got Ospina, our dearly departed Coq, Theo ‘for fecks’ sake’ Walcott, ‘No Pen’ Cech and, it pains me to say, Koscielny, overplaying it at any given opportunity.

Falling somewhere in the middle are Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Giroud, Nelson, Elneny, Holding and all the rest… These guys are the water carriers, the ones who get drawn inexorably toward positive or negative, and the crucial players that form the core. Away from the bright lights and BIG money, these guys are the ones really affected by the character of this Arsenal team. They are the ones needing guidance and reassurance. They are the ones that can eventually make he difference to this failing squad. Without good leadership however, they’re just the filling in a particularly crap sandwich.

And our beloved Arsenal is a woeful lunchtime snack at this very moment to be fair… Entertaining, with some character, but ultimately pointless. Maybe a little like this email? Wenger Out I suppose, nothing else for it at this stage, and that is a truly sad state of affairs.
Nick, Gooner in Berlin


In praise of VAR…
I won’t talk about the game overall, there isn’t much to say really, it was rubbish. However it did pinpoint the importance of VAR and how it can finally bring the consistency we all crave from our referees.

Hazard vs Bellerin and Moses vs ANN were very very similar tackles. Both in the box, both very minimal contact, one penalty. Presumably, reviewing VAR strictly follows the rulebook with time to double check and you can then rightly assume the Hazard penalty was incorrect. I’m not blaming Hazard for making a meal of it, I don’t blame him at all as without VAR the referee has seconds to decide the impact of the contact, you want to win and you can help the referee make the “right” decision. With VAR, the correct decision was made and Arsenal didn’t get the pen.

It’s still got a long way to go. While decisions were quick, the fans in the stadium need to be able to see replays to stop silence setting in. We also need to hear the referees during the decision making. While I would like refs to be hooked up to a mic the whole game, we need baby steps here as the outcry towards technology dies down slowly but surely as each team gets a positive decision from VAR.

All in all, a small step on our referees getting the help they need.
Rob A (penalty might have atl east got the game going…) AFC


…Loving VAR. I think it will raise the ref’s game and players will be less likely to dive for fear of looking like idiots by the VAR.

However, there is one main issue. What happens when a team breaks away and scores in the time it takes to establish that there was in fact a penalty to the opposition at the other end? Clearly if the penalty had been awarded in regular play, the breakaway goal would not have been scored. So would that goal be disallowed before the penalty was taken? In my view it should be, but imagine the fallout? This needs to be addressed before it happens.
Ally, London


Chelsea’s shape is a massive problem now
Writing this mail after painfully watching our games from Goodison to Arsenal (twice) through Norwich (sic).

– Antonio Conte for all his whinings about the board’s backing (which has some credence) has to take lion’s share of the blame for how he’s set our team up this season.

– We are 16 points behind ity not because we lost to the top dogs, rather the points lost (which we comfortably won last season) against the bottom teams (Palace, West Ham, Everton, Burnley, etc.)

– Last season, I had written saying a combination of the entire league taken by the tactical surprise of our back three along with Pep’s struggles with his ideas meant by the time everyone figured how to play us, the league was safe in the bag.

– The only way for improvement this season was (a) same system, upgrade players or (b) more tactical innovations with/without same system.

– The 3-5-2 is a welcome addition to our Arsenal, however our current implementation has some alarming issues. For starters, it places too much emphasis on Hazard and Morata to score goals which were otherwise spread across the entire team last season (Pedro for instance). While doing this, the system Antonio wants assumes 10-20 goals from midfield. This is precisely our biggest problem because Antonio does not have a peak Frank Lampard or Vidal to join late and score vital goals.

– In addition to this, the midfield is a flat three. And players have been shoehorned into the roles. Contrary to popular belief, Kante is not Makelele/Mikel who could slow games, and hold the ball in the middle. Kante is more Essien/Ramires who wins and takes the ball up field. Fabregas is no Pirlo or Alonso. Drinkwater (whom I’ve taken a liking to) is not Lampard or Vidal. Crucially all three do not have the makings of scoring 3-4 goals a season, let alone 10-15.

– In the mid 2000s, our midfield three was a conservative triangle, with two at the base and one free to roam (number 8 or number 10). However, our current system has thrown all that to the bin and underpins more on positional structure to the point of rigidity.

– You now have a system that has shoe horned players and I find a lot of difficulty in watching our attacking interplay as players look clueless (especially midfield three). I feel Bakayoko is a victim of all of this. A young player who excelled in a counter attacking 4-4-2 is asked to do things he’s never done before.

– Let’s talk wing backs. Alonso’s good, but I prefer someone with pace. Moses to me is an average wing back at best. Given the way our midfield three have been set up, it means the wing backs have more responsibility than the 3-4-3 when we had two number 10s and a CF. Alonso does things, but my god Moses is awful to watch! Please upgrade wing backs Chelsea.

– Finally, I also don’t like Antonio’s cautious set up in games I know for sure we can comfortably whack the opponents. Especially Arsenal. Our record vs Arsenal is legendary since Abramovich took over. A lot of it is because of the way we played vs them (bullying them all over against passing and playing). Antonio giving Arsene too much respect is something I just don’t understand. We should be putting dozens of goals against that joke of a midfield and whatever they call as defense. It’s not just Arsenal, against small teams, I don’t see the point of a 3-5-2 given all the structural issues that need sorting.

– Conte needs help from the board, but he also needs to rethink and go back to the drawing board at choice of set up/personnel for the roles. Thankfully one thing I love about him is that we concede very less which ensures a top 4 finish but to win titles and compete, I’m afriad we need to diversify our attacking play.

– Lastly, I had once written earlier this season at how Pep and Conte have been having season reversals. It’s getting more evident now. Conte’s tinkerings with personnel and systems, the players in all pandemonium fluffing gilt edge chances, and games where it look painful. It took the City board 2-3 right personnel to fix their team. Will Chelsea do the same to Conte?
Aravind, Chelsea fan


…I was going to write a long email about how lacking we are in any kind of structure, flow, or attacking tempo this season, how totally toothless we look now that we’ve dropped Willian/Pedro and chosen a three man midfield instead, how Fabregas, Drinkwater and Bakayoko would be the most complete midfielder in the world were they to be combined but somehow all look utterly mediocre and superfluous when you play them together, how none of them seem to know exactly what their role is, how Hazard’s struggles to find the net this season despite playing brilliantly can be blamed on this wet blanket of a midfield, how even Kante is starting to look human after 18 months of carrying an entire production line of ‘nearly’ midfielders, how our entire game plan seems to be ‘bypass the midfield and just hope Hazard or Morata do something spectacular’, but instead I’ll just ask this:

Why, week after week, game after game, are Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta our most influential players going forward? Seriously, it’s lovely having a Chelsea version of Lahm and Alaba, but it’d be nice if someone other than Hazard pulled their finger out too.
Ollie, London (has Pedro been forgotten? One of our best players last season)


Rooney Rule is patronising and not productive
I haven’t written in to The Mailbox for a while, but recent discussions of the FA implementing the ‘Rooney Rule’ when selecting the successor to Gareth Southgate has encouraged me to write in.

I’ve been a Full Time Football Coach since October 2006, and it has been my only source of income since then. I was born in London, have a Palestinian father, and a Welsh mother. Amongst other racially motivated insults, I have been told that I have a “terrorist sounding surname”. Ironically, my mothers maiden name is Jones.

Anyway, the Rooney Rule is pointless. It is simply an exercise in box ticking at the top of the pyramid to give the illusion of equal opportunities. It’s patronising, and not in the least bit productive. “Hey, you with the terrorist surname; come in for an interview. It’s an obligation for us to interview you, not a choice.”

If you want to create more diversity amongst Football Coaches, you have to start at the bottom.

Firstly, the FA needs to make acquiring coaching badges more affordable to appeal to a wider range of people. Secondly, they need to set targets of BAME Coaches on every course they deliver starting with the basic badges. Ultimately, the FA need to get BAME Coaches in the system. We can’t walk in at the top unqualified, so please welcome us in at the bottom and encourage us to grow from there. Thirdly, there needs to be a continued, improved and sustained effort to educate against racism.

So…how have I managed to create a career in football coaching despite the obvious hurdles? Rather than attempt to gain entry in to the professional game, I simply registered a business, and set up my own football academy for 4- 1 year olds. It’s community based, open to children of all abilities and allows me to “work” by sharing my ideas and philosophies on the sport I love.
Naz, Gooner


It does not fit the English problem
There is something that is important to note about the Rooney Rule, and why it was introduced. It wasn’t introduced because the proportion of the number of players who were black vastly differed from the proportion of coaches who were black in American football. It was introduced because the proportion of coaches who were black outside of the NFL vastly differed from the proportion of coaches who were black inside the NFL.

Or in other words, the ethnic distribution of elite level coaches was completely different to grass roots coaches. That’s a completely different situation to the one that proponents of its introduction here are talking about, which is the ethnic distribution of players relative to coaches.

Beyond that, the milieus and history of the US – particularly the south – and the UK are wildly different. Not only that, but you are comparing a closed ecosystem in US sports, to an open one in football, which is worldwide. Just because it worked in the US doesn’t mean it’s the right tack here.

This whole thing feels like a doctor prescribing a treatment they don’t understand to solve an illness they don’t understand. We are currently trying to fix the what, without understanding what the ‘what’ is, let alone the why and how.

Don’t mistake this for me saying that there isn’t a racism problem in football. It’s possible to doubt a claim without believing its obverse.
Jon, Bridgwater

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