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I didn’t even watch the game, mainly because I was playing footy myself but I just knew that we were going to lose.
Emery has no plan. He still after a year doesn’t know who our best team is. Why Xhaka? Why is he the first name on the team sheet? Has he got Emery’s sex tape or something? Auba must look at the dross behind him and get depressed. Why does he not play Torreira?! An actual DM! I also feel bad for Guendouzi too.. only one who looks like he has heart.
Why are we not starting Holding, Bellerin or Tierney?! Are they not fit for purpose?! This was a game crying out for someone like Ozil, who can bloody hold onto the ball, but Emery just because he couldn’t deal with the egos at PSG thinks he can waltz in and just pick on the Wizard.
Think I’m done with Emery and his brand of football. He’s been backed by the board. Wenger out is what people like Stewart Griffin wanted and this is what we get. This particular brand of directionless football relying on one player to bail us out week in week out.
Be careful what you wish for.
Jimmy (Can you tell I’m angry)
…It has been a long time coming and yesterday’s capitulation against Sheffield United is the culmination of a trend of inexplicable team selections and cowardly tactics that Unai Emery has seen fit to employ since the start of this season. What is even more obnoxious is the utter lack of acknowledgment on his part that his team can do better, his players can do better, and of course, he can do better. The treatment of Mesut Ozil (who I don’t believe is blameless either in this entire mess) is now a case-study in the hilarity of cutting off your nose to spite your face. That ongoing feud has led to the likes of Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock being overexposed and being asked to carry the creative burden of this side. Lucas Torreira must be having serious thoughts about where his career is going and I won’t be surprised if he’s gone by the end of the season, if not January.
As per Emery, Granit Xhaka has been performing perfectly well and any criticism directed at him is unfair and hateful. It doesn’t matter that the captain offers practically no vertical penetration and is wont to giving away stupid fouls and straying into no-man’s land (as he did yesterday when he had the utmost respect for Lys Mousset’s personal space). What is even more infuriating is that Xhaka, as captain, seems to be the perfect extension of the Emery philosophy – denial. According to both, Arsenal were unlucky and if chances were taken, would have been runaway winners. There seems to be no contrition for the fact that this expensively assembled squad wasn’t able to trouble Dean Henderson beyond a long range shot put squarely in the middle of the goal. No acknowledgment that when the players find they’ve played themselves into a little cul-de-sac yet again, they repeatedly resort to pushing the ball out to the wing in the hope that Calum Chambers will divine a half decent cross all of a sudden.
Results matter and “one game at a time” is useful mental conditioning to avoid players feeling overwhelmed by the rigours of the league season. However, it would be foolish to ignore the larger trends that are emerging at Arsenal under Emery simply because we don’t find ourselves in the bottom half of the table. The warning signs were there in the final run of games last season. The hope then was that a strong transfer window and keeping key players would lead to improvements. Aside from losing Ramsey, the summer was, on the whole, very positive. Despite that, this season has started worse than last season ended. The manager is scared of losing and would rather play for draws than actually go for it. The tactics he chose to employ at Anfield were a disgrace to everything Arsenal stands for and all the tactical geniuses of the world cannot convince me that playing a 4-3-1-2 and allowing their full-backs to run amok was in any way coherent. We’ve come unstuck against much lesser teams (with all due respect) and Emery’s management just doesn’t justify the massive transfer outlay that the club has incurred during his time here.
He’s tactically clueless. He’s arrogant. He’s scared.
He needs to go.
…No Arsenal fan was surprised about us losing this game. It was not an upset. This is our normalcy, and what many of us anticipated after seeing the line-up.
I’m just hoping Emery gets sacked by Christmas, and at least there seems to be a possibility that Raul would be willing to do so after the encouraging signs this summer. There’s no possible way Freddie could serve up anything worse than the dross we’ve seen so far this season.
Greg Benham, AFC
…I’ve firmly been pro-Emery at Arsenal since he was announced. Even when he benched Ramsey and Özil last year, I was ok with it, as we still played well, and the new signings, Leno, Sokratis, and particularly Torreira and Guendouzi, slotted in well and did a job in midfield different to Ramsey and Özil.
I’m still not “Emery Out”… but it’s getting harder to understand, explain and defend. Tierney has well and truly been bedded in the Europa and Cup games, he’s fit and ready, but the inferior Kolašinac is starting. Torreira, our most important midfielder, the anchor who the midfield should be built around, is benched or played right behind the striker!
Emery obviously didn’t like Ramsey and Özil last year… I didn’t agree, but I thought “back the manager.” But Emery still left them in the squad! Ramsey came off the bench so much last season to score, assist, change the game. I don’t understand why he doesn’t do so with Özil this season. Have him on the bench as an impact player, a “luxury” player, better than playing the young, teenage pair of Willock and Saka this much. They are both exciting and promising players, but this becoming infuriating.
Imagine playing Xhaka, Guendouzi and Willock (in the no. 10 position) whilst leaving out Torreira, Ceballos and Özil? Ceballos or Özil need to be starting every game in the attacking midfield position, our other midfielders are not attacking enough/good enough for a race to finish in the top 4.
Pick the quality midfielders to support our great frontline. Everyone always talks about Arsenal’s defence, but I’m more worried about the midfield. And the longer Emery persists with Xhaka the joker (at fault for the Sheffield goal AGAIN), the more Gooners that will become vocal in wanting Emery out.
Andrew M, AFC (Xhaka offers nothing but long-range passing and shooting, and even then only if he is given ludicrous amounts of time and space), Australia
Looking on the bright side, only 14 away matches left to go!
Rick, (#WengerIn?) Belfast
…Unai Emery is a 67 point manager.
He would get 67 points with Brighton.
He would get 67 points with Liverpool.
He will get 67 points with Arsenal
The only question is – is that good enough to finish top 4 this year ?
Yet again – even after massive turnover – Arsenal find themselves more dependent on others than themselves. Been that way for 7 years now.
Arsenal summed up in one quote
“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
― Kevin Durant
(and my Dad on numerous occasions over the last few years)
OGS as DOF
United’s game against Liverpool showed the team has a lot of heart and effort but still no style that can dominate opposition teams. Ole has done a great job in realigning the culture, taking bold decisions in letting players leave and trimming the squad, promoting from the academy and buying damn right! But beyond attacking with pace and hitting teams on the counter, I really can’t see much more to his game plan. The coaching team is doing ok but even Sir Alex would have needed to upgrade his skillset to compete against Klopp and Guardiola (who he never beat), talk less of his protege. United need a world-class coach who can build a team that would have torn Fergie’s to shreds, a coach who can go toe-to-toe with Guardiola and Klopp, one who would make former players keep quiet at their obvious lack of tactical knowledge, one who gets into intricate (but not boring) passing and positional techniques to outwit opposition defences, and one who goes into home games with Liverpool looking for a one-two jab (and maybe a 3 – 0 uppercut lead) and not one hopeful KO punch. OGS and his team have done well and I recommend bumping him up to Director of Football after this season (or the next) and doing what Ed promised to do before hiring him but didn’t – a proper search for a truly world-class coach (maybe someone in the mold of Erik ten Hag or Leonardo Jardim)
Side Rant: The decision of United players not to put the ball out of play when James was down but expecting Liverpool to was plain despicable. Ashley Young showed that he’s a poor captain with that act alone
Isimeme (Lagos, MUFC)
United’s priority isn’t a centre-forward
I know all the focus has been on United needing a CF this Jan, but I dont believe this should be our first priority. The Liverpool game showed that if we play to the strength of the our forwards – pairing them and using their pace and movement rather than designating one of them to be more central and not playing their natural game we can any defense problems. Van Dijk and Matip both had a torrid time dealing with Rashford and James, rotating Rashford James Martial and Greenwood for these two spots should serve us well.
What we are missing more than a CF is a true CDM, someone who can break up play and initiate attacks. Matic is so past it, we need his replacement now more than ever. Someone in the mould of a Ndidi who can break up play. Without Pogba our MF has looked incredibly light and we need reinforcements here more badly than in the forward line. Would be interesting to see if OGS will give Axel some games at CDM.
Going ahead I think a 3-4-1-2 or even a 4-4-2 diamond would be interesting to watch. Would allow a combination of Rashford, James, Martial, and Greenwood to dovetail and can even push Pogba to the tip of the diamond to maximize his attacking outputs. With Scott McTominay in the B2B role we would just need a true tackler. Although I want Fred to settle in he has not been able to show he’s up to the level yet. He’s not a true CDM and I feel he’s just being shoehorned into the team right now.
Old Trafford mental block
The Winners & Losers column mentioned Liverpool’s Old Trafford mental block. Now I always assumed it was Arsenal that had a mental block playing MU away, but it seems I was wrong. Here is the data for all games played at Old Trafford, split post-Fergie (note: it includes all games: league, FA cup, league cup, European ties):
The Fergie years (Nov 1986 – May 2013)
Chelsea P32 W8 D11 L14 -> 35pts -> 1.09ppg
Liverpool P32 W6 D7 L19 -> 25pts -> 0.78ppg
Arsenal P35 W5 D10 L20 -> 25pts -> 0.74ppg
City P24 W3 D6 L15 -> 15pts -> 0.63ppg
Spurs P33 W3 D6 L24 -> 15pts -> 0.45ppg
Since Fergie left (from August 2013)
City P7 W4 D1 L2 -> 13pts -> 1.86ppg
Arsenal P8 W1 D4 L3 -> 7pts -> 0.88ppg
Spurs P7 W2 D0 L5 -> 6pts -> 0.86ppg
Liverpool P9 W1 D4 L4 -> 7pts -> 0.78ppg
Chelsea P7 W0 D4 L3 -> 4pts -> 0.57ppg
No surprise with City and Spurs low ppg (points per game) during Fergie’s time as they were whipping boys then (“lads, its Tottenham” and all that). Surprising to see Chelsea surpassing Liverpool and Arsenal during that time, but OK. Even pre-Mourinho, they were doing OK at OT.
Post-Fergie, it gets interesting. MU has gradually been worse and worse under a succession of managers, but Chelsea and Liverpool haven’t really taken advantage, with Liverpool’s record being exactly the same, stuck at 0.78 points-per-game. Arsenal has slightly improved but not much. Spurs have almost doubled their points per game, but it’s really City who, with their new wealth combined with a declining MU, has benefited the most.
If I may define arbitrarily the mental block in this context as being an inability to put down a waning, blundering, weakened opponent, then it looks like Chelsea and Liverpool are indeed the ones with the OT mental block.
Mike, NZ CFC
…John Collins’ email complaining about Klopp was strange. Apparently Klopp should aim to behave more like Nuno after poor results. This brings to mind the Vince Lombardi quote, “show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser”. (Whisper it but Nuno Espirito Santo’s managerial record is actually quite mediocre prior to getting the job at Wolves. 2 wins from 9 league matches this season suggests).
Turning to Klopp’s comments themselves, forgive my Liverpool bias but I don’t see the controversy. This is probably helped by listening to Klopp’s post-match interviews, rather than reading them through the prism of a journalist’s interpretation. Listening to him speak on previous occasions about weather conditions, you can hear that he is describing the circumstances Liverpool failed to overcome, rather than saying “well, how could we possibly be expected to win with all this wind?!”
Same with his comments yesterday. Hypothesizing that the referee didn’t call the foul on Origi because he figured the VAR would overturn it if a foul had indeed occurred is not making excuses. Its highlighting a potential systemic problem with how VAR is being implemented in the Premier League. If you read Klopp’s comments rather than listening to him speak, you perhaps didn’t see the part where he also discusses at length a penalty that Manchester City should’ve been given Saturday. Nothing to do with excuse-making, as I see it.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
Dom Littleford. “it is undeniable that the teams above lift their games and put their bodies on the line against Liverpool in a way they don’t against City”.
(Sigh). Out of the nine PL games played so far Wolves, Norwich and Spurs would like a word. Or did City “Roll over” against them? I’m confused. You may also have noticed that City are currently 6 points behind ‘Pool?
You can’t be worried about ‘bottling it’ in October surely? Sorry mate but lame excuse for a reason if you are.
Mark (The noise in the background you can hear is the deepest bit of that big old barrel being scraped) MCFC.
…You know you were in for some bizarre hot takes after Liverpool dropped their first points of the season but the one from Dom really is extraordinary and demands a response.
Little old City with no one playing intensely against them and gifting them easy points. Like Sheffield’s keeper chucking the ball in his own net. Or Ings getting in the miss of the season to inexplicably gift the away team the win. Or players somehow actually getting penalty calls for fouls against them in the box. Would never happen to good, honest Liverpool who have absolutely not have some extraordinary luck this season already.
City are just so little, what with their 4 titles in the last decade. The club was only formed 10 years ago anyway, still some ways for them to go before they can step out of “obscurity”. Wonder how many titles they are allowed to win before they can be deemed to be worthy enough not to be little, plucky underdogs.
The whining isn’t just bizarre, its pathetic and blatantly untrue. The whole “bodies on the line” nonsense is basically every game City play. Every team looks to sit deep against them and defend for their lives with their backs against the wall. Sometimes it works (Wolves, Palace, etc.), mostly it doesn’t. It has nothing to do with opponents looking to gift City the win and more to do with City are a ruddy brilliant football team that win against those performances anyway. Liverpool have only recently become really good again so perhaps some of their fans have forgot that every team aims to bloody the nose of those at the top with a “bodies on the line” performance.
What’s with this inexplicable need to always paint Liverpool as the underdogs anyway. Liverpool are European champions for heaven’s sake! And are coming off their strongest league season in the history of the club. Liverpool have played poorly in games this season and have still managed to take something from the match. City have played some great football in games this season and have still managed to drop points. All of this should be filling Liverpool fans with confidence. Instead we get these ridiculous digs at City about how they’re so little and obscure and it doesn’t even matter if they win anyway.
Honestly, it just sounds like deep down in certain Liverpool fans, there’s a part that doesn’t really believe they deserve being here and are getting their excuses in early to protect themselves from the disappointment in case they throw it away. Suck it up and embrace the “favorites” tag. After all, little old City with no history have no issues playing as favorites and it hasn’t seem to have stopped them winning title after title.
Falooda in NY
Please, please, please can there be a separate mailbox for VAR mails? The mailbox has become a mimicry of actual football, whereby the enjoyment of the general mails (see the football) has been watered down and punctured by asinine missives about VAR (the VAR in the matches). The mails about VAR being right are sh*t and boring, the mails about VAR being wrong are sh*t and boring. I sure as sh*t don’t have anything interesting to say, but 10 years of reading the mailbox has told me that there are plenty of other people with humorous, interesting things to write that do, and the lengthy VAR diatribes have become replacements for great content comparable with the substitution of Rafa for Bruce.
…The real problem is not VAR, it’s the average football fans inability to accept that a judgement call decision has gone against them. Far too much time is wasted in football punditry discussing referee or VAR decisions. Ole and Utd deserve more credit than they have received for an almost superbly executed tactical plan. One that even caught Mourinho out for God’s sake as he didn’t see the 2 pronged attack of James and Rashford when he was discussing the starting line-up pre match. Everyone before the match was questioning Solskaer’s tactical ability and whether he can cope at this level. THAT was the bigger story from Sunday.
I would have preferred to hear the pundits dissect the formation and demonstrate how it restricted Liverpool to long balls from deep (although I actually believe that was also one of Liverpool’s planned tactics before the match) and poor midfield transitions/passing rather than have them all bleating on about why an on field decision wasn’t overturned when most people feel it was a clear foul. It wasn’t given, the goal stood, the game carried on, get over it. Better to debate the quality of the ball from James and what the defence should have done to prevent it than waste time showing 5,000 super slow motion angles of Lindelof kicking Origi’s calf! Better to debate the poor quality of Alexander Arnold’s passing and assess why that happened than to argue about why VAR is not encouraging referee’s to go to the side of the pitch to review a questionable decision.
None of this will change until we stop discussing whether or not it was the right call. I would love it if those covering football would just take a stand and simply not discuss referee decisions. Leave that to the fan down the pub or the work colleagues giving each other stick for a good/bad result. Let’s have more intelligent debate on these vastly expensive tv programmes about the tactics or performances rather than arguing an opinion about something that is not going to change.
This is how we ended up with the VAR mess. All the fans and pundits wailing about poor refereeing decisions and how we need technology to fix it. No. You were wrong. It’s changed nothing because the problem was never really about the quality of decisions. The problem always was and still is this childish refusal to accept what has happened in the game whether right or wrong and to just move on from it.
Adam LFC (and don’t get me started on all the mailboxers writing in claiming to know exactly what Martin Atkinson was thinking!)
…Sigh! For weeks on end, I’ve scrolled past every single mail mentioning VAR’s problems because it seems more than half the people writing in about it do not understand why/how the system works and I don’t have the time to waste reading that crap. (Ffs, just Google!)
From the premier league website, and I’m quoting: “…is constantly monitoring the match but will be used only for ‘clear and obvious errors’ or ‘serious missed incidents’ in four match-changing situations: goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents and mistaken identity.”
The page continues: “…In the Premier League, there will be a high bar for VAR intervention on subjective decisions to maintain the pace and intensity of the matches.”
“Factual decisions, such as offside or if a foul was committed inside or outside the penalty area, will not be subject to the ‘clear and obvious error’ test.”
And, very important, “The final decision will always be taken by the on-field referee.”
For state-side viewers, you notice Arlo White often repeats how it was described to media a priori: “the purpose of the system is NOT to re-referee the game.” The VAR hardly ever overturns the on-field referee’s decision.
There’s more links that go into detail on the system. One mentions that “Real-time speed replays will be used initially to check for intensity. Slow-motion replays will be used to identify point of contact.” Also, “VAR can be used to overturn a subjective decision if a ‘clear and obvious error’ has been identified.”
From Sunday’s game, the decision on whether Origi was fouled was subjective (see above). Referee deemed it not a foul and that’s it. If you think otherwise, your problem is with the on-field ref then, not the VAR. Mane’s handball was a rules issue, VAR got it right.
Smdh🙄 Please RTFM!
Patrick (Could we please have VAR-less mailboxes back so my bathroom breaks at work can return to being 15+ minutes?), Across the Pond
…I’m sure the mailbox isn’t quite done with VAR related emails yet, but what on earth went on with the shirt pull on Sokratis last night? We all applauded loudly when VAR was used in the world cup and immediately cut out and punished one of the most annoying aspects that had crept in to the game – the repeated cheating by defenders on set pieces and corners. With all that goes on in the box, with so many challenges and players to look at I don’t blame a ref for not spotting a shirt pull, but to then not even go to VA|R to see if they missed something is completely arrogant, who was the ref – Mike Dean of course! So is VAR only called for if the on field ref asks for it? That is ridiculous in itself. David Luiz was rightly called for a penalty for pulling Salah’s shirt at Anfield earlier in the season and this was no different. VAR should give us consistency, especially with something as obvious as a shirt pull, so much more black and white than contact between players and having to decide if that contact warranted a foul. There is no doubt that refs have been told to move heavily towards not over-ruling any on field decision except with offsides and handballs that lead to goals, how do you explain that no penalties have been given by VAR all season? Every week there are 3-4 utterly ridiculous VAR decisions. Mike Riley and refs have sought to protect themselves and in doing so have made themselves look incompetent, weak and selfish.
…With all this hate pouring in for VAR, I’m (largely) writing to defend it.
While it might not be the most compelling or resounding endorsement, I think its use has been a net positive. The idea that because of areas of confusion or poor application we should burn the whole thing down is (to me) baby and bath water nonsense.
As Klopp noted yesterday, offside calls are now super tight, but the system making the judgement is consistent. Handballs are often objective: Mane handled it prior to scoring and it was correctly ruled out. If you want to argue about the rule change that says any contact with the hand directly preceding a goal is a foul then obviously do so, but that’s not VAR’s fault. I happen to agree with the rule – in the aggregate I think it prevents more injustice than it causes.
The area that causes the most aggro is the most subjective area in football: foul play. As much as it’s easy to give into cynicism, I do believe the “clear and obvious error” rule makes sense from the perspective of maintaining the important “human element” to our beautiful game, and it does protect the power of the referee to an extent. And we really do need to do that. For those outraged about controversial situations like yesterday – unless you’ve literally just started watching football this season, you should remember that we had rather a lot of those before VAR too.
Nevertheless, I think the application could be refined in this area.
Option 1, you remove foul play from VAR’s purview, and keep it to the more objective decisions. I have no idea if Martin Atkinson considered VAR when he didn’t give the foul on Origi, but this would remove that notion from everyone involved. Refs would definitely make that call one way or another and managers would have no grounds to insinuate that they might be leaning on VAR.
Option 2, you offer a third VAR response (beyond error or no error): “I advise you to review the footage”. This may slow the game a touch, but how many goals are actually going to be reviewed this way in an average game? Not many, that’s how many. Goals change games, and we want them to be clean, don’t we?
I lean towards 1. I’d also be comfortable with 2, which would, for example, have allowed the ref to more clearly see Callejon’s execrable dive in the Napoli game against my beloved Pool and reverse the penalty decision. Yet – which illustrates the point perfectly – I’m not sure that Martin Atkinson would have overturned United’s goal, as (and I’ll likely be excommunicated for saying so) the contact on Origi was minor and I can see why it wasn’t given.
There will always be opinions, and we have to accept that. But we might do better to remove such subjective calls from the purview of VAR.
Rich Wells, Boston (the American one).
Hats off to Chichester
As I get older and more sceptical about pretty much everything football related the story I saw this morning has put a smile on my face.
Chichester United, who play in the 9th tier, were the club given a bye into the next round due to Bury being thrown out of the competition. The reaction of the players to being the last team left in the hat was great, but the club itself had promised to make a donation from the £36,000 prize money they receive to Bury.
That’s lower tier football at its best. A world away from the Premier League and a great display of comradeship to another club. Well done all and bigger clubs take note.
Chris (CFC), Surrey
Belated non-league day
This is a belated non-league day mail because I couldn’t make my team Marine’s game, so I settled for the next game which was on Saturday against Marske United (due to rescheduling this is actually the team we’d played away to the week before). We lost 4-1 away to them on non-league day, but from what I heard it was closer than the scoreline suggests. Nevertheless, they are a very strong side who were unbeaten in all of their first 8 league games. The game got off to a good start with James Barrigan putting us ahead after 5 minutes, the first time Marske had been behind in any game this season. They equalised from the rebound of a brilliant save by Shamal George (Liverpool fans might recognise the name, he’s on loan). Shortly after that we scored again but the flag was already up for offside. It was level at half time and remained that way until the final 15 minutes, when debutant Craig Pritchard stepped up to score twice and give us the win. It was a great game, not least because we had an attendance of 418 (if I remember correctly, our highest since a huge 585 on August bank holiday and second best in the league this weekend, only 1 behind City of Liverpool). There were some great young fans in the Crosender Road end chanting and singing throughout. Josh Woods, the first player to step up from our new reserves team, also made his debut. It puts us 3rd, with 2 games in hand over league leaders Workington who are 5 points ahead, a promising position as we aim for promotion after our first ever relegation last season.