Mails: Arsenal should replace Sanchez with… Iwobi

Date published: Thursday 11th January 2018 3:03

Regale us at

Iwobi’s time is now
I didn’t get to see the Chelsea v Arsenal match last night, but I’ve managed to catch a few matches involving the Gunners this year on the telebox. With the expectant sale of Alexis Sanchez, the inevitable response from fans and key observers alike will be: well, what will they do with the proceeds? Who will replace someone who has provided so many goals for the team over the last few years?

Whilst there are clearly options available out there in the market and, I’m sure there will be players keen to join Arsenal, I think they need to address one individual in their current squad. Mr Alex Iwobi. My question is this: what is Alex Iwobi?

He generally plays across the attacking midfield 3 behind a striker, given plenty of freedom to roam across the pitch. Taking a look at his stats for the year so far, I wonder what he contributes.

· 1 goal and 1 assist in the PL in 773 minutes, 12 appearances.

· Averages 1.4 dribbles per game but is dispossessed on average at 1.3 times per game. Average of 2 shots per game. Key passes stand at 1.6 per game.

· 39.9 passes per game, with a 87.3% completion rate. 0.3 through balls per game

Watching him play, it’s clear that he is a technically gifted player and the stats appear to back this up. Whilst he doesn’t contribute very much to the defensive plays of the team I’d argue he may not need to.

Arsene clearly has faith in the lad as he’s been used in some fairly important matches this year: vs Manchester United, Liverpool and, more recently, Chelsea. So, before Arsene and Arsenal fans look externally for a replacement for Sanchez, I think it’s time to invest some time into Alex Iwobi. We regularly challenge the decision of clubs to spend significantly so why not challenge the club to invest more time and effort into the development of their own players. Iwobi has been in the squad for a number of years now and, as a neutral observer, appears to have already plateaued. As mentioned on F365 not so long ago, it’s time that coaching took precedent over management.
Phil Pearce, London


Pre-Sheikh City
I remember watching Leon Mike’s debut at Fratton Park. Being a Southern based City Fan I only got to see a few games. My Dad, Uncle and I sat in the Southern stand with the home fans openly supporting City. The nearest we got to hassle that day was the 9 year old behind me shouting in my ear that Leon Mike looked tired (he’d gone down holding his ankle at some point in the last 10 minutes to hold onto their 2-1 lead). I remember thinking he’d tried hard, but ultimately Shaun Goater was just too good to replace.

The other City debut that day was Christian Negouai who achieved notoriety amongst City fans for ignoring club medical advice on his knee problems and allegedly consulting a faith healer. I’m just glad Leon didn’t do the same for his hamstring injuries.
Blue Tim (Papers said it was a ‘witch doctor’ back in the day. Racist.)


Peak Liverpool
Reports are building momentum that Liverpool will pay an extra premium to get bring Naby Keita in before the end of January.

Paying extra to get a player you already paid extra to buy to replace the player you sold at an inopportune time?

Peak Liverpool.
Kris, LFC, Wirral


Pep had a point
Great article from Peter G. this morning – if you’re worried about losing your ‘pub chat’ because of VAR, you could do worse than arming yourself with a few of those stats..

The one that stood out for me was that Huddersfield lead the tackles per game chart with 19.8 per game. Upon first reading, this seemed curiously low for the team with the most tackles in the PL after 22 games. A quick dig on the PL website confirms the stat, so I doff my hat to PG and apologise for every doubting him.

But this reminds me of the interview Pep gave last year after their 4-2 loss to Leicester, when he said he ‘doesn’t coach his players how to tackle’. This statement caused collective outrage amongst PFMs and tabloids at the time – and contributed to the notion that Pep was a ‘fraud’ and that he didn’t know what he was doing in our league. Didn’t he know our league was the roughest, toughest of them all?

Looking at the stats further, Man City average 15 tackles per game this season (16th). That’s one tackle roughly every 5 minutes, which seems quite surprisingly infrequent in a fast-paced end-to-end league such as ours. Now, this figure might be low due to Man City being a possession based team (They have recorded 20,084 touches this year – Arsenal are second with 17,999), but they are also ranked 19th in fouls per game with 9.1. These the statistics back up what Pep was saying – he doesn’t feel the need to coach his players to tackle, because the way his team play means that they do not necessarily need to tackle that much, and, more importantly – they’re actually quite good at tackling.

So… maybe he’s no fraud after all…
Lee (Attempting to change the subject from VAR), LFC


Run, Danny
How many Danny Welbecks would you need to do the running for a team that contained Mesut Ozil and Mkhitaryan?
Chris MUFC


Stop this hypocrisy
So Alan Brazil was bemoaning the fact that Tosin Adarabioyo has bought a £2m house and it has sent me over the edge. When ex-pros come out and talk about how tough it was in their day you have to think about the drawbridge mentality. “We had it tough so why shouldn’t you?” is one of the most ridiculous statements ever. It ignores the fact that there was no interest in English football outside of England, that the Internet wasn’t in existence (with all the trimmings that come with it) and that, for the most part, the clubs used these kids to do the jobs that these days someone is actually employed to do.

That clubs today encourage education and a social responsibility is glossed over. We should not forget that while we were out drinking, smoking weed and staying out late, these “kids” were already refining their bodies and mentality to become successful. If they didn’t, they would not progress. Likewise, ex-players who were boozing etc during their careers have conveniently forgotten that the profession has evolved. That millions of people around the world know these “kids” names is glossed over. That their likenesses are used for advertising, on computer games and they cannot (some from age 16!) leave the house without being recognised is completely alien to someone like Alan Brazil because he never had to deal with it. Mouthing off on the radio is probably the ONLY way that most people these days know who he is. That will not be the case for this generation of footballers.

There will always be entitlement in all professions and it seems as though our golden generation have that same expectation that a Sky Sports job will be waiting for them once they retire or that they should walk into a managerial role at the top level “cos they won stuff”. I went to boarding school at the time when hazing and initiation rituals were acceptable and expected, by the time I got to the higher years, we were told in no uncertain terms that it was no longer so. Did I bemoan that? F*ck no. I remembered how f*cking horrible it was to do some of what I had to do as a 13 year old boy in a foreign country. Shivering in my underwear as 18 year olds kicked footballs or flicked hockey balls at my head is quite possibly the most scared I’ve ever been.

Rather than talking about scrubbing boots, maybe the ex-pros could talk about the amount of time these “kids” spend in analysis, scrutinising their performances down to the finest detail, the hours spent training or travelling to matches, that these “kids” have to devote themselves entirely to a profession when most of us are learning how to not pick our noses. I, for example, have no idea what I want as a career and I’m 32.

I’m not accusing anyone or any entity of this but, it is no surprise to me that in a time where the balance of white/black kids coming through has started to become more equal, that the conversation seems to always veer towards the money or the flashiness. Tosin Adarabioyo is a footballer for the world’s richest football club, he trains alongside some of the world’s best players who play in the world’s richest league. Why the hell should he be paid what a bartender for Wetherspoons would get? Why the hell should he have to live in a terraced house in Gorton? Why shouldn’t he be able to purchase himself and his family a house? He needs that space to get away from the type of people that listen to these opinions and decide that “they won’t stand for it”. Raheem Sterling was attacked a few weeks ago. Does anyone truly believe it’s just cause he wears blue? I don’t. I blame the cabal of ex-pros who bemoan how “easy” these “kids” have it and the media who sensationalise these opinions on the front page of their papers. This is the same media who will bemoan how much the Duchess of Cambridge spends on her clothes one day before taking the piss that she wears them more than once the next. It’s gross hypocrisy and it needs to stop.
Alex, Zürich


VAR debate rumbles on
Let me start by saying that if, like most, you only ever watch football on the television then I am sure VAR will not be a problem. Whilst the referee is discussing with his mate in Heathrow about the latest contentious decision you are probably treated to replays of the incident with some insipid analysis from an ex pro.

However, for those few of us who actually go to games VAR was not so great. After Fabregas was “felled” in the box not too far from where I was standing. I knew it was not a pen. I think 90% of the fans knew it was not a pen and play carried on with the referee having made a correct decision. Chelsea are then awarded a corner and the referee stops the game to hold his finger to his ear whilst the crowd has no idea what is going on.

So we have a game between 2 London rivals which is nearing the 90 minute mark and a corner is delayed by what seems like an age (probably actually 90 seconds) and all the fans at the game want is for the corner to be taken. Some of them getting increasingly irate (I know I am too old to get that upset but I just can’t help myself). I am not sure how I would have felt if the referee had pointed to the spot. Maybe a mixture of joy and bemusement at getting awarded a penalty after play has proceeded. Added to the fact that it seemed to abet Arsenal’s time wasting I dread to think what it will be like when you come up against a team adept in the art of running down the clock.

So, in conclusion. VAR great if you are a fan of armchairs and needlessly corroborated refereeing decisions. Awful if you are a fan of uninterrupted match going experiences. It may well be the process improves or as fans we just become accustomed to the additional delays but I think the age of double digit stoppage time may soon be upon us.
Simon CFC Woking


…On the subject on VAR, it will be interesting to see when they decide to overturn the decisions of the referee. Football and contact can be subjective. For example, to me that was a penalty yesterday, just like it was last week. However soft it was. I am almost certain that had atkinson given the pen, VAR would not have overturned the decision, which shows that VAR will not stop debates about penalties.

It really also does slow down play. There really was no need for play to be stopped for 30 seconds to ensure that Welbeck had not commited a foul. That really should have taken about 10 seconds, tops.
Guillaume, Paris


…I think the rule can/should be tweeked that the only time VAR should come into account during a penalty decision is if a ref awards a penalty.

Last night Atkinson let a coming together in the box go (I believe it was Welbeck on Sanchez) and awarded a resulting corner kick. Play was stopped to make sure the decision was right, it was confirmed, and the game continued. That process was a little bit slow and awkward. The replay showed Atkinson got it spot on. VAR did it’s job.

I think in the future, if the ref is sure then he lets play goes on and with that decision VAR should not be introduced at the next stoppage of play. However if the penalty is called it must be reviewed. In the example by Ally, London this morning, if there is even an inkly of a penalty refs should award the penalty, then with help of VAR they can get the confirm the decision. While we may see a lot more penalties called, this situation would make Ally’s situation much less likely.
Brian (Glad to see VAR in the game, but it does need a bit cleaning up) LFC


…Dear Rob A…You’re obviously smoking the same paranoia-inducing stuff as Arsene Wenger. Just because VAR didn’t give a penalty last night it doesn’t mean somehow that a wrong call was made for Hazard’s last week.

VAR doesn’t get rid of ‘grey areas’ in the game and anything that is a “might be, might not” decision isn’t and shouldn’t get changed. IMHO the tackles weren’t as similar at all, there was a clear contact on Hazard which stopped him gaining possession of the ball in the area (regardless of how he went down). Most pundits agreed, but the key thing is that the referee saw one as a foul and the other as not.

I suppose when your team set-up away from home playing 5-4-1 like a small club, you don’t have a lot else to mail in about though.
Lawrence, Leeds.


…As a formerly full-time Arsenal fan who’s lived through a cornucopia of questionable refereeing decisions over the last decade and a half (red-tinted glasses firmly on), I’ve always been a supporter of VAR. It makes sense, right? Take the power away from the Mike Dean’s of the world to wrongly decide a game, a season. I’m a data scientist, and so I believe in some degree of objectivity when it comes to refereeing decisions. There are interpretations and there are shades of gray, but there is also the balance of probability. Referees can get it wrong, and they need help.

The biggest counterargument to this that I hear seems to be that it will slow down the game. To which I generally reply, so what? The game can stop for a few seconds, and it will go on. It seems a small price to pay for getting things right. And I still hold on to this, but something has come into my life that has made me waver significantly on this.

That something, of course, is my 14 month old daughter. Light of my life and bane of my existence at the same time. I learn new things from her everyday, and over the last couple of weeks I have learned a great deal about VAR. Let me explain. Around the six month mark she started to eat solid foods. She was and remains a picky eater. She would simply not open her mouth, even for foods she liked the day before. Every mealtime is a battle. But when she does… oh, when she does. When she opens that tiny little mouth and accepts that tiny morsel of food, whether it’s gooey applesauce or a piece of pot roast, it is the greatest joy of my life. It is success, victory! It’s a bigger win than, dare I say it, scoring a goal. These tiny victories keep me going.

A few weeks ago she learned a new trick. Rather than not open her mouth (which she still does, all the freaking time), she would open her mouth, chew on the food a little, then spit it out – up to a minute or two later even. And then she just looks at me triumphantly, like the little Beelzebub she undoubtedly is. That moment of joy, getting the food in her mouth, is followed a moment later by a feeling of utter failure, of dread. By a desire for the ground to just swallow me up. But I have to keep going, I have to keep trying. It is soul crushing. What it means is that the joy I felt when she does open her mouth is replaced by…nothing. A sense of dread, an anticipation that she’s about to spit it out. I can’t enjoy those bites anymore.

So look, I get it. Who wants to watch a game where you can’t celebrate a goal in the moment, because every goal is followed by 30-60 seconds of ‘will it count’? When the goal is finally awarded the moment is gone, the visceral joy is replaced by a sense of relief more than anything else. I get it. So I’m sort of in two minds here. Hooray for correct decisions, but at what cost? I suppose I’m lucky to be a Gooner, where our goals don’t matter anyway because the whole club is going through a multi-year existential crisis.
Zeddington (Part-Time Gooner since October 2016)


Chelsea have gone soft
Aravind suggests that Chelsea can ‘comfortably whack the opponents. Especially Arsenal’. How’d that work out for you in the cup final? The reason you’re not scoring bags of goals against Arsenal and that Conte’s record against Wenger is poor compared to his predecessors, is that Chelsea simply don’t have the players to bully Arsenal anymore, or expose their supposed soft centre. Costa picked up the mantle brilliantly from Drogba in that respect and Morata is a definite downgrade. I used to dread these games more than any other in terms of expecting Arsenal to get a proper paddling. Now, for all of the talent in the Chelsea team (and lets be honest there are still some fantastic players there), there’s no one who I’d fear would bulldoze us into submission in the way that Lampard, Essien, Drogba, Costa et al used to.

In short, you’ve gone soft pal!
David, Gooner


…I have to say I love Football365 as the articles and mailbox help me get through a mundane day at work but recently I’ve found the mailbox very difficult to read at times…

We had Arvind the Chelsea fan this morning moaning about how ridged the Chelsea formation is and how Conte needs to change his approach. This is the same system and coach that Chelsea fans were creaming themselves over last season along with a lot of pundits and fans of different clubs. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had fans from various clubs complain about the approach and set up that their coach has decided to adopt for certain games, we’ve had fans thinking that the REAL game of football is like a game of Championship Manager (pre Football Manager). If I was Klopp I’d spend the Countinho money on this, that and the other… if I was Mourinho I’d be looking at areas we need to strengthen and but this, that and the other… Its all very good building these fantasy teams in your head but in reality teams can’t just go and buy whoever they want when they want.

I think as fans we need to take a step back and realise that running a football club is a very difficult job, there are very trophies up for grabs and not every team has an entitlement to win them. Why cant we just we all just sit back and let the professionals do their VERY difficult job… “its very easy to criticise but very hard to do” was one of the best things I’ve heard one football fan say to another who was lambasting the coach from the stands. I think we should all realise that these guys are in one of the most stressful jobs in the world and yes they get paid very well for the privilege but who else in their day to day job has the scrutiny of the media on them 24/7, every decision is dissected by millions of people who think they know better. Let the coaches coach and our job as fans is to support the club we love, through the good and the bad times. I think the problem is a lot of supporters now just follow their club when the times are good so when their club is second in the League, in the semi final of the League Cup, in the knock out stages of the European Cup and still in the FA Cup this is seen as not good enough…. Come on Arvind and the rest of you guys, Conte and others are doing a very good job so lets leave them to it, after all he did win the League last year!!!!
Kev, Belfast (Everton Supporter if it matters)


Rooney rule
I’ve been reading about the Rooney Rule for a few days now, with some interest as someone of BAME heritage, and have come to one conclusion.

There’s a lot of cr@p being spouted.

It doesn’t take just 20 minutes in front of an interview panel. If it did, quite frankly it would be tokenism. If being interviewed properly, it would be a minimum of 3 hours face to face over a couple of meetings plus the cost and time of employing someone to do the necessary and standard background checks, etc for someone who’ll be paid a reasonable amount of money and be able to influence games on which a large amount of money is wagered.

Can we also not equate the number of BAME players now to the managers? Possibly we can do for people who were playing in the 80’s and 90’s and would now be the general age of a manager, if we make the assumption that all players go into coaching and no people come into coaching from outside playing professional football. But it’s not a closed system.

And Paul Ince is never a good example, he was given special dispensation because he wasn’t qualified to be a Premier League manager. Would that have happened for someone who wasn’t a former England international? Racists might ask if it would have happened if he was white? (I think it did with Gareth Southgate too).

What does matter is what proportion of qualified coaches are BAME – it shocked me that only 3 out of 44 on a recent FA course were not white men. Whatever background, managers and coaches should be qualified and there’s a small pool for clubs to pick from. If that pool is predominantly white men, that’s what we’ll see in employment.

As it stands, the Rooney Rule will cost a little in admin but be mainly a nice little PR stunt resulting in no tangible effect on the numbers of BAME coaches and managers. One potential effect would be that any BAME person who does get appointed will have the perception of being picked due to their race, losing the respect and trust of those they work with.

But if we increase the number of coaches who are qualified, we will start to see real changes.
Neil, British-Indian


I read Football 365 about 8 times a day (more when Liverpool win, less when Liverpool lose) and have never written in before but wanted to say Bravo on the Rooney Article – in particular the opening paragraph on privilege. While it is written regarding football, it is brilliantly phrased and can be applied to all society. As the saying goes, if you are in a position of privilege, any equality can feel like oppression.

I know some will bemoan discussion on this topic, as they don’t see it as related to the sport on the pitch. But by ignoring/disregarding something which definitely affects the game and the society in which it is played, you are ensuring it is not solved and perpetuated. I am a White Irish male, and while I do not have a privileged background I still can see that society favors me more than most (and of course less than some). If i can’t acknowledge that, I am burying my head in the sand.

Thanks for writing the article – and for taking the flack no doubt ye will receive for discussing it on these hallowed pages. Now 10 reasons why Liverpool will beat Man City….
Roscommon, Ireland


…Given the recent proclamation by the FA that they are to introduce the Rooney Rule when it comes to making appointments, I’d like to proffer an alternative theory for discussion on the matter. Is the issue of a lack of BAME managers not one of race but one of social class?

For many, many reasons that date back decades, if not centuries, the distribution of ethnicity is not evenly spread across social class. Do the requirements of the modern job require candidates with a higher level of education these days? It might be a regrettable state of affairs, but education level and social class are inexorably linked. Obviously I am not saying everyone from a poorer background is thick, that would be a laughable suggestion, but it’s undeniably easier to get a good education the more your parents earn.

Increasingly, the profile we tend to desire for the manager at our football clubs is not the “working-class-done-good”, Harry Redknapp types, but the more cerebral, sophisticated, thinking men, like Guardiola, Marco Silva, Jose and co. The major clubs, that are all huge corporate brands (whether we like it or not), want the front man for their businesses to be eloquent and urbane. They don’t want Joe Kinnear.

It’s not something that, as far as I am aware, there have been studies on, and of course there would always be outliers to any trend. Chris Hughton, the only BAME manager in the top flight, was from a working class background, but given he was writing a column for a left-wing publication in the 1970s, he’s obviously someone that had taken his education seriously in his youth. However, if the majority of BAME players coming through the system are coming from poorer backgrounds, have a poorer than average education to start, then join an academy system that places football far higher than general education in its priority list, is the resulting under-representation in management to do with the colour of their skin, or the lack of education afforded to them by their class? Is this also reflected in white former players of the same social class? I’m sure if you asked most fans whether they’d prefer their club to be managed by the decidedly working-class Wayne Rooney, or the privately educated Frank Lampard, far more than 1% would say “Frank Lampard”.

I’m not saying this is definitely the case, or that it’s anything more than a minor contributing factor to the situation, I’m just throwing it out there as a theory for discussion.
Lewis, Busby Way (Lack of education is at the heart of many of English football’s problems)


…Just read the Rooney Rule piece by Chicken. Good article with some good points well made, some I agree with, some I’m sceptical of. I’d not say Rooney Rule is a no brainer, but also not say that it’s pointless.

I’ve warmed a bit to it where I originally thought, like most, that it’s tokenism. And there IS still an element of tokenism, there can’t NOT be, but as others have pointed out, it’s allowed to be tokenism BUT still be a good thing, as it’s raising awareness and addressing an issue.

That brings to me the main point of this email. The article itself by Chicken is good, but the comments section at the bottom is amazing on this article. Great points made by Adam Browne and Andy Kuz in particular, the best point in my opinion being that ‘BAME’ stands for 3 ‘groups’ shall we say, but the vast vast majority (if not whole) of people that the pro Rooney Rule speaks out about are just the B, black. It’s a great point.

One more point I want to argue with is the beast / animal remark. I know for a fact that I’ve called Ronaldo a beast, and Messi a freak…. didn’t seem to have too many people jumping on me for that. I’ve also called kante a machine…. no animalistic inference there… papa bouba diop was known as the wardrobe…. I think we need to be careful over being selective when trying to prove a point. Going too far the other way and ‘looking’ for racism where there just isn’t any present is shocking, but that happens a lot nowadays.

Anyway, we’ll played to the comments section on this one. When the usual numpties keep quiet and let intelligent thinkers have their say, the comments section can be a great read and source of alternate opinion too.

Keep it up people
Wigan Dave


I was suprised to discover all Football365 writers are white and all but one are male. Will you interview at least one BAME writer when you replace Steven Chicken?
Billy, Fulchester

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