Has Arsenal’s defence got worse without Mustafi?

Ian Watson

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Mane vs Salah is the new Robben vs Ribery
It used to be a favorite discussion amongst football fans 5-7 years ago after a few pints, after you got bored of arguing Messi vs Ronaldo. “Who is better, Robben vs Ribery?” The answers were always varied and often reflected that person’s personal preference in terms of style of play, due to the almost equal quality level of the two players, and the different styles they played with. It was usually a case of each one having their week in the limelight alternatively.

Now, in 2019, we have Mane vs Salah, once again dominating the pints fuelled arguments that follow after you get bored of discussing Messi vs Ronaldo (salute to the longevity of those two). Similar to Ribery and Robben, Mane and Salah are two players whose quality is arguably at par, visible to all those who follow Liverpool regularly. It is once again mainly a case of whose style of play you prefer.

You have the force of nature Mane, a frightening attacker for a defender, with excellent dribbling abilities, skill and link up play, and a physical specimen with a powerful yet cultured shot on him. In the other corner you have the silent assassin Salah, also frightening for defenders but in a more understated, refined way with less skill and more deft touches. He is more elegant in the manner of his dribbling and finishing style, with a more fine-tuned approach to shooting.

As a Liverpool fan, it’s a dream to have two attackers of this quality, supplemented by my favorite one of the three, Firmino. However when it comes to Mane vs Salah, I personally slightly prefer the style of Salah, just like I prefer the style of Messi to Ronaldo, or Ribery to Robben. To say one is better is impossible for me, since they both have their moments each week, sometimes only one shining, sometimes both.

However, it is interesting to note that as of January this year, Mane has been on a steep incline in terms of his form, where his game is improving rapidly at a pace far greater than Salah’s. It is only because of Salah’s lofty initial status gained in his first season at Liverpool, that they are now at par in mine and I’m sure many liverpool fan’s eyes. At the current rate however, my gut tells me that Mane will outscore Salah this season, and possibly assume “top gun” status at Liverpool. At the same time though, you can’t rule out Salah going on a mad scoring spree either. And that leaves me where I started, its impossible to say one is better right now. Not a bad situation to be in tbh as a Liverpool fan. It is truly a pleasure to watch two attackers of such high quality pushing the team together to greatness, while simultaneously indulging in fierce healthy rivalry, and playing out an epic battle amongst themselves for top status

P.S nice to see all the plaudits for Bobby Firmino after his Ronaldinho-esque performance last weekend. He has been the unselfish brains of this Klopp operation for a good two years now, and finally appears to be receiving more of a “superstar” status on an individual level, richly deserved.
johnnyWicky, Toronto


Why De Gea will be back to his best
So after a whole lot of speculation and uncertainty, Spanish Dave has signed on for at least another 3 years (possibly 4 if we trigger the extension). It’s not coming on the back of his best work, as he’s been largely underwhelming for about 15 months. The recent suggestions in the mailbox that United should have cut their losses in the summer and brought in a replacement were definitely reasonable, but I feel like the contract is coming at the right time.

Since joining United, De Gea has had to play behind a combination of rapidly fading stalwarts (Rio, Vidic), extremely raw youth players that didn’t make the grade (Blackett, McNair – remember those two?!), and certified clowns in Smalling and Jones. Add to this, players being played out of position at CB, such as Rojo, Blind, and even Herrera and McTominay on occasion. Despite this, he established himself as one of the world’s finest, even if that crown is now slipping a bit.

But this season, despite all the problems United have, defence seems to be the one are where things are finally coming together (despite conceding a couple of cheap goals already). The Maguire and Lindelof axis looks solid, and no doubt continue to improve as they play together more often, and as things stand, somehow, United have the joint-best defence in the league (though that will no doubt change soon)! With the signing of Wan-Bissaka as well, United now seem to have 3 of the back 4 properly nailed down. The one area where we need a proper upgrade is left-back (or at the very least, someone to challenge Shaw), but any goalkeeper needs that kind of stability in front of him.

Long story short, there now seems to be a clear idea of what the first-choice defence looks like, rather than a rotating cast of players ranging from inadequate to injury-prone to inept. It will take this season for them to properly bed in, but the new signings are already showing promise. With a stable (and decent) back line in front of him, we might see De Gea back to his imperious best – though hopefully an improved defence means he’ll be called upon less often.

Of course, I could be very very wrong about all this, but let’s see how it goes.
DJ, MUFC (parentheses enthusiast) India


Mustafi couldn’t do any worse
Ok, I know this topic isn’t going to go away, so I must as well get in there, which half the Arsenal team weren’t keen on. Deeney was right (hate to say it), and so was Xhaka (hate that even more if that’s possible). We were scared, not protecting the ball (does anyone tackle us in training?), shying away from headers (looks like Willock caught Ozil’s disease) and didn’t have the confidence to play our game. Or at least Emery’s game.

For those among his increasing army of detractors who called him cowardly, surely his persistence in playing out from the back is a stinging rebuke of that? Surely it is the height of supreme courage (if not madness) to keep playing out from the back when your players so clearly do not believe themselves capable of doing it? I am not an Emery supporter, just calling out the contradiction.

Jenas said it best. Some of Arsenal’s players believe they are better than they really are. Call it arrogance or complacency but it has no place in a team that is nowhere near City and Pool. Guendouzi’s taunting of the crowd was as ill-advised as it was premature. Was he even playing in the same game? Has he even delivered consistently enough? No sir he has not. If anything I thought he should have been benched even earlier, not just because his head was not right for most of the game, but because it would have sent a signal to the rest of the team.

Instead Ceballos got pulled first, and that, I would suggest is evidence of Emery’s timidity. In a game that cried out for more control and better link ups, the one player who was doing that was sacrificed, to put on Torreira in a futile bid to put out the fire. Guess what? Without an outlet pass, they keep coming back.

Back to the title of my post. Is it my imagination or have things become worse since Mustafi lost his starting place? He makes mistakes but I would be very surprised if he did so at the same rate we seem to be suicidally sustaining? Ok I kid, I kid… he’s not the answer either but things must be really bad if I can even think of this.


Emery out
Subject says it all – we have the best squad we have had in years and we do that at Watford – you could tell we were in trouble even at 2 nil – Raul get him out, Josh get him out – #EmeryOut – #AllegriIn – it will not get better, it will just get worse unless they get rid of Emery now, he not only looks confused, he is as confused as he looks!

This Unai Emery experiment must come to an end! We all wanted a change but not like this. When I saw Watford had 31 shots I couldn’t believe my eyes and this isn’t the first te we continue to be Outgunned by Lower ranked teams Brighton Last season even Newcastle were firing shots at our goal.

The guy is basically a coward who refuses to play on the front foot, a reactive manager who only tries to do something once the other team scores he approaches every game as if we are Lincoln City going for an upset in the FA cup, we offer every single team encouragement by sitting back and he refuses to concentrate on our strengths every single team is treated like Barcelona 2012.

He needs to get out of our club because we will never see the best of Arsenal as long as he is here, we create minimal chances a game and play some of the worst attacking football at Arsenal that I have ever seen even the defence is worse than it was under wenger! We cannot keep relying on Auba and Laca to bail us out

Frustrated Arsenal fan London Shane


Throw-in coach pays dividends
I was going to write a rant this morning about the despicable actions of Scott McTominay and Zinchenko this weekend, both feigning serious injury in an attempt to get an innocent opponent sent off. (Both should receive 3 match bans in my opinion). Meanwhile, I just stumbled on some very interesting statistics that I find even more interesting. Ben Jacobs, journalist and football analytic, recently provided these stats for Tifo football, concerning throw ins ‘under pressure’, i.e. where your opponent marks your players waiting to receive the ball – so probably most throw ins these days.
The average Premier League team retains possession after only 48.6% of their throw ins under pressure. That’s the lowest of the five major leagues, although the highest percentage, La Liga’s, is only marginally better at 52.4%. Here’s what blew my mind a bit: Liverpool now have Europe’s second highest retention percentage from under pressure throw ins at 68.4%, up from 45.4% (Third lowest in the PL) only two years ago. I’m sure Peter Goldstein could quickly calculate how many interceptions or successful tackles this equates to in terms of overall ball possession and retention.
The highest retention percentage in Europe, you may ask: FC Midtjylland in the Danish Super Liga. Hitherto perhaps most famous for being Marcus Rashford’s launchpad to fame, they also manage to keep possession of 70.2% of their throw ins. They also happened to be the first team to employ throw in coach Thomas Gronnemark – Liverpool famously, and to some ridicule, was the second. I guess that Gronnemark guy knows what he’s doing after all and is perhaps due a few apologies? See this link for more.
Tom K (McTominay though… Pretending to get a Mike Tyson style blow to the head when in fact he just received a slight push in the back as clearly shown on the slow-motion replay. Rivaldo would be ashamed…..)


Pub football
I didn’t read JNics piece because I knew it’d anger me and make me write a furiously long email about why he was wrong again and judging by the few emails this afternoon I wasn’t wrong. Luckily I have just moved homes so I have unpacking to infuriate me instead. But then I read Dan’s mail and it got me thinking back to a glorious June evening a mere 3 and a half months ago and the bitterness stirred in my depths…

I am a Liverpool fan through childish wonderment at the abilities of Michael Owen (bit awkward these days, but 6ish year old me had the right idea at the time). However I currently live in London due to my PhD studenting (humble brag). I was in a pub in Putney (those not in the know, its south of the river from Fulham, its a pub where a lot of Fulham fans go pre-game). It, too, is branded as a sports pub and has circa 10 screens in a relatively small space. I went there with a few mates to watch the champions league final. The commentary was on full blast as clearly 99% of the occupants of said drinking establishment were there for the game, so no qualms there. But, the pub is one of those pubs that likes to turn itself into a bar-cum-club after a certain time on weekend evenings. Again, no qualms, sometimes they can be a lot of fun, but.. At half time I was at the bar topping up the liquids in preparation for a nervy second 45, and a DJ strolls in and I overhear him say that he’s here to get set up. The guy behind the bar jokes that he can get himself sorted but he’ll have to wait until full time to start otherwise the entire pub will turn on him. I didn’t think he meant this literally (the waiting, not the turning on). I’m not exaggerating when I say that as soon as the final whistle was blown and half the pub erupted/half collapsed, the commentary was shut off, the lights were dimmed and the cheesy dance music was turned on (louder than the commentary I must add). So, almost without a seconds notice about 2/3rds of the people in the pub saw the ends of their drinks away and left due to a lack of being able to celebrate or hear themselves think. Lucky I lived just down the road at the time so we speed walked back to see the aftermath of the trophy lifting.

Honestly it was not a particularly pleasant way to end the evening. It took all of the joy out of a situation I’ve been waiting 14 years for, and left me with a whole load of “what the f**k are they doing?”s.

I find this an issue in a fair few places as pubs try to cater to as many groups of people as possible, which I do understand, but even they must realise that something as massive as an all-English champions league final (watched in a pub in London) is going to earn them significantly more money on a Saturday night than some poor DJ spinning some horrendous 80s pop anthems at people who are there trying to watch/enjoy the thing he’s just interrupted. I can almost guarantee that those 2/3rds that left would have stayed and got at least 1 more round in while the trophy was being lifted and all the various interviews were being done, but instead they took their money and their joy and their “what the f**ks” elsewhere. I’d like to point out that I’m not blaming the DJ for doing his job, but some pubs definitely need to have a think about the best way to maximise profits.

Joe (witty brackets from a grumbling youngish man)


Inconsistent Johnny
Genuine question for John Nicholson (not rhetorical):

Why would it be “brilliant” for Burton Albion to be placed in the Cup WINNERS’ Cup as losing semi-finalists from last year’s League Cup, if it is “fraudulent” for the CL to include non-Champion teams?

And a quick point about Champions League viewership:

F365 regularly mentions that the live TV audiences for these games are very small, attributing this to it being behind the paywall on Sky or BT.

It’s a very valid point but only from a UK perspective because:
1. CL games are free to air in a lot of countries
2. CL games are watched despite the paywall in certain countries (USA if I’m not mistaken)
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland


… You know it’s the start of the champions league when Johnny Nic writes an article about how the champions league should return to how it was when he was 12 , and random members of the mailbox send in their recommendations for improvising the tournaments ( Discard group stage in Europa raise it to 128 team , and no 3rd teams from Champions league since you asked).

I’m sorry you can’t have it both ways you can’t love how the semi finals featured two English teams and Ajax all of whom wouldn’t have qualified last year if you applied your strict rules and want to go back, besides do you know how genuinely boring it would to have the same teams every year

Think about it this way besides the premiership the same club has won the other top 5 leagues majority of the last decade do you know how powerful they would become if only the champs qualified.Maybe by now Messi would have about 9 champions leagues we wouldn’t be talking about How Guardiola won yet another champions league having beaten teams no one remembers instead of the VAR drama we got .

For all the romanticism Johnny goes on about the real surprises in terms of winning the trophy before multiple teams from a country qualified are steau porto and red star .Since multriple teams started qualifying you’ve still had Jose’s Porto and at a strecth the awful chelsksi side.If Johnny doesn’t like the way it is now watch Parizan vs Alkmaar on thursday (and if you need to google to know the signifcance then the article is hypocritical
Roode, Man Utd


Fair play?
Why do supporters and players get so stroppy when a player is down, the ref does not stop the game – and the other team plays on as they are meant to. Why do players cheat all of the time and think that’s okay – but when you don’t boot the ball out as soon as one of them go down – and they all know the players not injured – and invariably gets up straight after and carries on – more cheating – but this is a righteous cheat – wow it such a contradiction – are all footballers really that bland that they don’t see what a load of b*llocks that is.

Its a massive embarrassment – the screams, the rolling around, the wincing – and then when they notice the ref doesn’t give it up they pop – or alternatively they stay down and put the whole shape of the team in jeopardy – AND THEY ARE NOT INJURED OR EVEN HURT!

I know diving and feigning the foul is part of the game – but the rest of it is just a load of tossers (and these so called men are big strong athletes) being feeble, yet they can slam themselves down on their knees after scoring a goal and that never hurts – WTF!

Thats another thing – the worst injuries occur around the knee area in soccer yet BANG – score a goal and slam down on those knees – why does no one at the clubs think this might be a bad idea????
Joe (Dive but don’t make out an elephant just stepped on your d*ck – you look like a bunch of w*nkers!)


Liverpool’s year
I would like to correct Adeel in his comments about Liverpool fans shouting about who’s year it is. I hope I can speak for all Liverpool fans when I say that we have never said “This year is our year”. The running joke was and always will be “Next year is our year”.
Culk the Younger


Sentimental Rafa
While I agree that Benitez would never have signed Andy Carroll, lack of sentimentality (is that even a word?) has nothing to do with it. Remember, this is the guy who resigned Robbie Fowler. AND THEN PLAYED HIM.

Mad man.
Andrew M, Joburg


Justice for BPF
I must say that was a needless dig at Bailey Peacock-Farrell in todays top 10 feature. Calling him ‘frankly a bit sh*t’ is disgraceful. Did you not see him ten days ago v Germany no less when he put on a top class diplay? I am not a Northern Ireland supporter nor a relation of Peacock-Farrell but felt the need to call out this nonsense. By all means say it was a pointless signing if you want but no need to question his ability particularly a week after playing so well against a top international side.

Paul O’Neill (Nor a member of the Goalkeepers Union either)


Can’t seem to find Man United’s Champions League fixture. Has the game been postponed?