Derby draw highlighted why Arsenal can’t stop Man City. Only Liverpool can…

Editor F365
Ben White and his Arsenal team-mates react after the final whistle in the north London derby.
Arsenal look dejected after losing two leads in the north London derby.

The north London derby exposed Arsenal’s frailties and why they won’t challenge Manchester City. But the Mailbox reckons Liverpool might. Also: Manchester United and VAR; Chelsea, Everton; and more…

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Arsenal won’t stop this City
Having watched the Arsenal vs Spurs game yesterday, it made me realise that Arsenal will most likely never win the league under Arteta. Sure, they will most likely finish inside the Top 3 again and fair play to that given how competitive the league is and Arteta has built a really good young squad, but still so young and naive as well.

Arsenal don’t have a second way of playing, no Plan B, and the Jorginho mistake yesterday for the second goal more or less summed up their problem of getting too ahead of themselves. Why is he trying to be so smart right they just after they scored and were only 2-1 up? I think Arteta taking off Rice made no sense because Jorginho is such an overrated player and has no legs left. What exactly does he offer? The one thing is he is seemingly good at, he did the opposite yesterday in losing possession in such a dangerous area too. I think Arteta has to take responsibility for the result yesterday, even Elneny is better than Jorginho. Arsenal should learn that signing players from Chelsea never really ends well. David Luiz & Willian were pretty average, Jorginho is only good at taking penalties, and Havertz somehow looks like sh*tter version of Fellaini.

Arsenal could win the league in 2 years, Saka & Martinelli will have improved, Saliba and Rice as well, but they have a long way to go in terms of maturing and if Arteta can get 80+ points again this season, he is definitely going in the right direction, but should concentrate on winning a few domestic cups this year and take that really seriously, but also have potential in the Champions League this season.

I think Liverpool and Klopp are the only team and manager respectively who can challenge City this season. Salah is so f*cking good, Nunez is starting to look like a really threat and his confidence is high currently. Their midfield has adjusted with each other so quickly already too, I don’t think people realise how bloody good a manager Klopp is. I think his squad is the cheapest in value compared to rest of the Top 6 and has easily been the second best team in England over the last 6-7 years.

As a United fan, I know it sounds strange, but I hope Liverpool can win the league and stop this mad City dominance. The attacking power of Liverpool is possibly greater than City’s, but can Liverpool defend properly when it really matters? Oh and Rodri and Stones in central midfield is just some kind of cheat code from Pep, its so efficient. I think Van Dijk is still class, but Dias and Stones outrank him currently in terms of reliability and City have ridiculous backup in Ake, Akanji and now in Gvardiol too. Liverpool will need some luck this season, but I think they are the only other team who can rack up 90+ points and I guarantee City are reaching that number of points this season even if injuries build up for them.

Could Brighton find themselves in a title challenging situation? How bloody good would that be for the league. I think 4th place this season will be between United, Spurs & Brighton and as a neutral it would amazing to see Brighton achieve that. Newcastle could do it too, but I think standards may slightly drop this season and they may find themselves in Europa League this season which they could probably win.
Rami, Manchester


Justice for Son
I hope who ever picked F365s combined XI for the NLD is getting the coffees this morning. Son is the best player across both teams and he didn’t make it! He’s now scored more goals this season than the entire of that combined/Arsenal front 3.

A truly class player.
Alex, South London


Striking difference
Oh Dear. This match has encapsulated everything that is so clearly wrong with Arsenal. How many times have I mentioned that until Arsenal get a clinical striker, they’re going nowhere?

Arsenal screwed that game up down to a lack of attacking quality. Pure and simple.Gabriel Jesus gets an easy chance he did well to work, 5 yards out, cannot even hit the target. Eddie Nketiah’s “performance” was an absolute clown show. Appalling first touch, no pressing, shocking decision making, made no runs, congested attacking areas, not anticipating attacking chances, awful hold-up play, no chances created, offside in every transition, unfit, slow, clumsy. It’s genuinely ridiculous that someone this Bad is starting big matches at a “title contender”. I repeat: if Haaland gets injured, Alvarez comes in for Citeh. As a reminder, Alvarez is a sensational, clinical attacker that has won everything at a young age, and cost a third of the price of “Fake Brexit Benefit Havertz”. So no excuses about “money” – Arsenal and Arteta made the unforgivable error of blowing a fortune on another Chelski reject. A £65m new summer star signing starting the first big match on the bench. But hey, some deluded Gooner will pipe up and claim he did all this “unseen work” as he got splinters on his arse whilst sat on the bench

Oh and then there was the other Chelski reject, Jorginho – doing his best double-agent impersonation. Hilarious lol.
One day, someone at Arsenal FC is going to have enough of a brain to realise that Chelsea are never, ever, going to sell Arsenal a decent player. Never. It’s arrogance, delusion or sheer stupidity for any Arsenal fan to welcome a defection from Chelsea. Utter joke. They sell Arsenal tat, always have.

The chances Arsenal missed would have seen them go 2-0 up. Instead, Son gets a half-chance and buries it. And makes no mistake with his second. Two shots, two goals – the definition of an elite striker. Delivers in pressure scenarios. Arsenal fans will accept one day, that they don’t have a single elite striker – Jesus is a great footballer but a shambolic striker. The antithesis of “deadly”. It’s the height of delusion for Arsenal fans to think they have any chance in the PL or CL with the rabble in attack. Not gonna happen.

Liverpool have Salah. Citeh have the cyborg. Spurs have Son. Nketiah is a Wolves striker in an Arsenal shirt and it’s incredible someone of that standard is starting games of that magnitude. Rice sorted the midfield at last, but the striker issue continues to be an Achilles heel, and the club sat around and did nothing to address it.

Plus ca change…
Stewie Griffin (look forward to the excuses)

Read more: 16 Conclusions on Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham: Raya, Maddison, Nketiah, Postecoglou, Arteta, Son


Arsenal’s own ‘Where’s Wally?’
I’ve already waded through numerous opinions concerning the 2-2 draw at the Emirates yesterday, but I feel most supporters are yet ignoring a key flaw in Arsenal’s set up.

Yes, Arteta’s player selection was weird, his in game management woeful and our string of injuries concerning. But, like many I thought Spurs would show up with a ‘nothing to lose’ swagger – they did, and deserved a point.

However, in an email exchange last week my friend (we live in different countries) asked what I wanted to see against Spurs after the fabulous game we had against PSV? I said another clean sheet.

This sensibility started nine months or so ago after Zinchenko took Tierney’s place. We started last season with a record points haul with Tierney as Zinchenko was injured. Then Arteta tossed him aside because ‘All Hail Inversion!’. Though I could see the benefit in some games in others (more competitive games) I wanted to see a classic left back. Even if by Christmas in the Wonderland of 50 points, I had taken to exclaiming ‘Where’s Wally?’ when our attacking play broke down because Zinchenko was caught so frequently completely out of position.

Or was he?

It occurred to me, an arrogant Arteta felt we had the talent to play three at the back against all and sundry. Then, we started shipping goals after Christmas before Saliba and Tomiyasu were injured. This continued to the end of the season when many fans realized Zinchenko, talented player though he is, was also a defensive liability.

Cue this season. In this very forum I stated how frustrating it was to see no amendments to our defense in spite of the fact we had world class defenders. Shipping embarrassing goals once more. It is now self-evident Arteta’s shenanigans with defense are a constant misfire. It’s all too clever. He starts the season dropping Gabriel with Party at right back (inversion!) – a fail. Then we reinstate Gabriel, have one (note one) cracking game against PSV and then are at sixes and sevens against Spurs.

Essentially, I believe White, Saliba and Gabriel are utterly confused and nervous about what they are doing tactically. They can all have brilliant individual moments but against any team on the counter they are left confused as to how to cover the pitch. It’s all Keystone Cops.

So I was furious yesterday to watch the game play out particularly after saying all I wanted was a clean sheet. But, however basic this sounds, if someone can’t get this simple idea through Arteta’s thick skull – you know the four defender thing which even Guardiola has adopted- then a tilt at the title is looking far fetched.


Fair’s fair
A draw in the NLD seemed fair in the end, Arsenal had enough chances to have put the game to bed in the first 35 minutes, Jesus missing that chance when he robbed Maddison was the sliding doors moment in the game. Spurs grew in to the game and deservedly got a point. The injury to Rice disrupted Arsenal and by the end the European game midweek looked like it was in the legs of some players. It was probably the worst performance from Odegaard we’ve seen for a long time, he didn’t get going or control the attacking play as he usually does. Injuries are starting to mount up for Arsenal, Timber, Partey, Rice, Martinelli, Trossard – all important players. Of course plenty of other teams get injuries but seemingly only Man City can cope with them.

Spurs fans will question Nketiah not getting a red card and Arsenal fans will ask why Romero was spared a red for a handball 2 yards out to stop a goal but in reality nothing is cut and dried and perhaps rather than mailbox after mailbox of arguing about the ref we can for once say that the ref handled a difficult game rather well.

Sadly right now it seems a valid tactic is trying to position your team to take maximum advantage when/if Pep decides to take another sabbatical. City are missing key players but aren’t really missing a beat.

Is Gary Neville fast becoming one of the worst pundits or co commentators around, he obviously knows a lot and thinks a lot about the game but more and more now he seems to have a narrative that he wants to peddle irrespective of the game. Yesterday he was going wild at the passion of Spurs celebrations after Son’s second goal but also telling us Arsenal over celebrated their goal and it led to the equaliser – even suggesting the Arsenal fans were over confident and that somehow contributed. Finally the classic nonsense of Arteta being too animated on the sidelines contributing to Arsenal losing concentration and conceding. Talk about weaving it in whenever it suits. This conveniently ignores all the times those things might contribute to goals scored and victories or that these things have such minimal bearing on the game that it’s not worth mentioning at all – unless you have it in your head and want to bring it out all the time to try to prove your theory right.
Rich, AFC


Eddie should be off
Re 16 conclusions, yes the ref did ok, but neither he nor VAR spotted the Nketiah challenge on Vicario.

That was so late it was out of shot of the live tv camera. Then on replay he’s sliding in, uncontrollably, foot and studs up. THE most obvious red card, and, nothing. Pathetic.

Reflection on the game was that Spurs were nervous and didn’t play as they could play in the first half an hour or so. But once they got past that, they were dominant, next year there will be no such hesitancy. Only one team looked like winning it until Son and Maddison went off.
Dave, (6 games and no Kane >> 3+ years and £600m), Winchester Spurs


United getting screwed
In your conclusions to the Arsenal Spurs game you say for the penalty, it was hand ball, this of course doesn’t happen when it’s United against Spurs with an even more blatant hand ball yet F365 brushed that one under the carpet. Same as the Burnley game, it’s offside just not when it’s City, United being f*cked by VAR every week and I called it after 5 days of Pearl clutching due to Wolves not getting a penalty. Corruption is a strong word, but my lord if it carries on then this needs to be looked at, every bloody week atm.
Paul Murphy, Manchester tin foil hatted


Toon tonking
It’d probably be wise to hold off on drawing too many conclusions from Newcastle’s astonishing dismantling of Sheffield United, but that was really something else. Anthony Gordon’s torn collar at halftime was evidence of the panic he’d begun to induce in the Blades’ defense; the shirt-pulling was strong in this match. Newcastle were by no means guiltless, but Burn’s goal would surely have drawn a penalty had he not scored, and there might have been other shouts, too. Sheffield’s entire defense looked absolutely paralyzed by the end.

Scoring eight without the benefit of a Shearer hat trick would have been monumental; having eight different scorers is just mental. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the Blades’ weakness, or of Paul Heckingbottom’s game plan. Or that the Blades seemed to make blunder after blunder in the second half. Maybe some sort of weird Newcastle-Sheffield hoodoo, given the victim of that Shearer hat trick. At any rate, the joy of victory was tinged by a bit of shame before the end. It was almost hard to watch.

Newcastle seemed to end the match in a loosely defined 3-5-2 or asymmetric 3-6-1. Whatever it was, it looked effective, and concentrated the squad’s best defensive assets in a central three in which a player like Jamaal Lascelles could conceivably provide non-disastrous cover. I liked the look, and it’s surely evidence that Howe has been giving our patterns of attack and defense some thought.

During the last two transfer windows, I noted that Ashworth and Howe were prioritizing versatility in their player acquisition strategy, and the changes Howe made today showed how it was paying off. When we lost probably the least versatile of our summer acquisitions, Harvey Barnes, Gordon – who had surely been benched for a rest and because he was on four yellows – was ready to go and fill that role in a different devastatingly effective way. Almiron’s goal was scored from a central position. Tonali briefly covered his position. The late subs of Livramento and Hall were particularly notable: both arguably out of position, both enabling Howe’s seemingly new formation.

It was literally an historic victory, even if it serves largely as evidence of our GD bona fides. I’m not particularly confident that we’ll make top four this time around. Spurs and Liverpool are both looking quite strong, and neither Manchester City nor Arsenal look any more vulnerable. I do believe we’ll at least get out of the group stage in the CL. The result in Milan demonstrated that we’ve got the class and resilience to survive, perhaps even into the quarters (It’ll help the EPL’s coefficient: bonus!) I also think we’re going to have results like this one and the opening-day kicking we gave Villa from time to time throughout the season, and that is just everything. If we remain capable of delivering a result and performance like that, the table is almost irrelevant to me, emotionally speaking. Newcastle United are again a club that nobody can take lightly, and I think that might mean even more to me than a trophy would. (Bring on that trophy, mind, so I can examine this thought further.)

The usual caveats apply: monsters and oligarchs brought us to this pass. I support my club’s success, not theirs. And however good a job they do, I’ll wish it weren’t them bringing us success.
Chris C, Toon Army DC

Bruno Guimaraes Newcastle

Everton relief
Man we needed that. Didn’t hang our heads when they scored, just kept at it.
TX Bill, EFC


I’m sorry, Nic Jackson
Nicolas Jackson is going to get more cards in his Chelsea career than goals isn’t he.

I guess if you blow £1billion on below average players you’re going to find one who’s skill is getting carded.
Will (What a shower CFC are, top to bottom)


Liverpool should meet change with change
Reading Marc’s suggestion that Salah shouldn’t be sold because he’s irreplaceable is either wrong now or wrong soon enough. Death, taxes and no Salah.

There’s a certain London club that until this season was graced with their best ever forward and consistent golden boot contender. One of their own. Heart and soul etc etc. The thinking from many quarters regarding Kane leaving aligned exactly with Marc. But look how Spurs are travelling. Early days for sure, but the goals certainly haven’t dried up.

At the heart of the misjudgement is that teams are static in terms of tactics and approach, and that they deploy these tactics and approach in a league in a state of stasis. None of which is right, players, tactics, coaches, rules, interpretations, priorities… everything in football is evolving all the time.

Salah leaving is inevitable. Either Liverpool control it as much as anything like this can ever be controlled and sell him now, or they ride the certain decline. Either way, in the not too distant future there is no Salah as he is known today. Liverpool should absolutely take every Penny they can and invest it in evolution instead of chasing the mirage of replacement.

Let me ask this, Spurs ‘replaced’ Kane with who? I’d say, everything but no one.

There is no such thing as like for like, which is absolutely fine in a system like football which dynamic to the point of chaos. Meet change with change.
Dr Oyvind, Earth.


…I don’t think it is fair to dismiss anyone’s view on Salah’s decision-making inside the box as “negativity bias”, anymore than it is for me to dismiss those who see the situation differently as “biased” in favor of Salah. The high-profile incident Marc cited between Mané and Salah happened in December 2020, the issues with making the wrong decisions inside the box were quite visible for a long time prior to that.

But the main reason for me writing this reply is to highlight the fact that Mo Salah is not immortal. This shouldn’t need to be said, but apparently does. Marc describes Salah as “irreplaceable” – well that is quite unfortunate because he will need to be replaced one day in the next X years, one way or another. The fact is that older players replace themselves every year – they get one year older. They might not get worse year-to-year, but you can’t just cling on to excellent 32 year old players and throw money at them begging them to stay. That is how you become FC Barcelona. I genuinely don’t understand how anyone who has watched football for the last 10 years and seen what Barcelona did with Messi, and still say “Salah is irreplaceable, Liverpool can’t sell him”. There are 3 options/scenarios:

(A) Sell Mo Salah in June 2024 for more than 150m+ GBP, with 1 year left on his contract. Try to replace him with the proceeds.
(B) Let Mo Salah leave in June 2025 for free, after his contract expires. Try to replace him with… nothing?
(C) Offer Mo Salah a contract extension, when he has the leverage of the Saudi + other offers to compare, and likely need to offer him wages far greater than what he is already on, which is already completely outside the club’s wage structure

I’d guess that those who do not want to sell Salah under any circumstances, ever, are hoping for (secret option D), though.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Swizterland


City and the state
Just wanted to comment on the surprisingly low-key news about the UK government admitting its embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Foreign Office in London have discussed the Premier League’s charges against Manchester City.

First of all, I’m stunned this isn’t headline news, the consequences of the government pushing for a favourable outcome for the club as a matter of foreign policy effectively destroys the Premier League as an actual competition.It’s basically allowing Manchester City to get away with whatever they want in the future and dismissing the past fifteen years of all manner of book cooking that allowed the club to reach the top in the first place. FFP will then only apply to non-state owned clubs, before you know it Mansour is on the phone to Sunak to push for other favours. How far can this go?

Secondly, we’ve long been told by 99.9% of City fans that the club isn’t state owned. This news clearly proves they are, why would the government have discussed this issue and refused to disclose the details because it may impact their relationship with the UAE if City was merely a private investment by Mansour?

Thirdly, City claimed after the charges were announced that they have evidence that will clear them of the charges, despite their actions clearly pointing to the contrary, given their stance on wanting a change of barrister on the case because he’s an Arsenal fan. Why has this issue been discussed at government level if they have this evidence? It makes no sense. It’s almost as if everything that club has done for the past fifteen years has been a lie and a sham. And that’s exactly what the Premier League has been for over a decade, City have made a mockery of the competition and every team that’s been part of it.

Fans protested against the Super League. This is an even bigger threat to the sport…..because it won’t be a sport anymore if City’s vile ownership gets their way