Mails on Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2, Ole, Newcastle and…

Date published: Wednesday 22nd January 2020 10:09

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Sums it up

I f**king love it.
Jon, Lincoln


Musings on a bonkers game
I hurt my throat shouting with joy after we got our second. It’s so nice to be on the other end of heartbreak for once.

It was also great to see us clawing a game back after a few weeks of doing literally the opposite. To do so with 10 men is even better.

2 shots, 2 goals. Brilliant.

When is Leno going to get more praise? Yeah he ballsed it up the last time these two teams met, but Allison’s record isn’t exactly clean. We’d be in even worse shape without him for sure. I trust him and I haven’t trusted an Arsenal goalie since Mad Lens was between the sticks. Work that logic out.

On the flip side, Kepa is a crap ‘keeper.

I won’t say much about Mustafi (plenty others will), other than I genuinely feel sorry for him. He’s not doing this on purpose. He’s a good player who has a terminal case of “the whoopsies” which just cannot be tolerated at this level, let alone a club like Arsenal.

That said, Luiz’s challenge was brain dead in my opinion. Better to go 1-0 down and still have 11 men. Unless he took a punt on only getting a yellow, in which case he didn’t do a stellar job masking it.

Sometimes people are hired for jobs they seem great for, but for various intangible reasons it just doesn’t work out. That describes Xhaka and the captaincy perfectly. People in and close to the team do nothing but sing Granit’s praises and he has impressed since Arteta came in. Maybe being given the armband resulted in just a little bit too much pressure to deal with? He’s turned a corner and the shift he put in at CB was impressive.

Martinelli is making the most of his starting opportunities. Makes you wonder who will lose out when Auba is available again. 4 doesn’t go into 3 and Gab has done more than enough to deserve to be part of that conversation.

Torreira is a beast. I feared a repeat of the palace game when he went down in the second half(?). We just seem more shaky without him breaking up play all over the pitch. He is, in my opinion, the glue that binds that team together.

The results may not be coming but even the blind could see how improved we are under Arteta. We’re definitely moving in the right direction and while this season is a write-off, every game is another opportunity to instil the right ingredients for success in the future.
Matt Wright, Gunner in Aus


Feeling good for Arsenal
Another draw for Arsenal, although this one will feel like so much more than a point for Arteta and the players. Arteta is in what is effectively the longest pre-season ever, he is building the blocks of how he wants his team to play, react, fight etc. Other fans will scorn at Arsenal fans being excited over a manager who has only won two of his first seven games but when you’ve sat through 18 months of Emery and the last 5 years of Wenger you are always going to be excited when the green shoots of recovery show themselves in a manager who is trying to fix the problems that have been staring Arsenal in the face for 10 years.

To be 1-0 down, with 10 men at a ground we generally lose at, with Xhaka/Mustafi as the CB partnership, a pair of 18 year olds – one a winger playing left back and your captain making a rare appearance after the best part of 14 months out of the game, and to fight back not once but twice is the thing that gives Arsenal fans hope.

For Arteta to play a 4-2-3 formation when we went down to 10 was very brave. The front 3 worked their socks off to protect the defence but also ensure that there was an attacking threat that meant it wasn’t just 60 minutes of defending. I’ve seen past Arsenal teams crumble when faced with far less adversity.

The turnaround in Xhaka since Arteta came in is remarkable, his performance at CB today was brilliant. A word too for Saka, only a handful of senior starts and he’s being asked to play left-back when he’s a natural winger, he has been very good.

Final word for Martinelli. I think 16 Conclusions picked up the rare scouting brilliance that can pick a guy up for £6m and within half a season he’s probably upped his value 10 fold. 10 goals so far as a cup and bit part player, has played right, left and centrally. For me, even at a young age, he is the mould of the present and future of attackers in the modern game, versatile, quick, 2 footed, finishing, dribbling, mobile, intensity, high work rate. It is the mould of the Liverpool front 3 and players like Son at Spurs. Very impressive.
Rich AFC




Dissing Chelsea
The worst thing about this Chelsea team is their ability to make anybody look good. Xhaka and Mustafi at center back? Ten men? No problem, we’ll make sure they write songs about them. Teams on 10-match winless runs suddenly seem like Mourinho’s Inter. Chelsea cannot keep a clean sheet and cannot create chances.

This season was always going to be tricky, but getting out-sh*thoused by Arsenal is a new low. At this point it seems like either at least five of the first 11 aren’t good enough or Lampard is not. The Kepa situation is now hilarious though so at least there’s that.
Lawrence, CFC, Abuja


…Well I’ll keep this brief, here are my very short conclusions to Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal.

1) Frustrating performance overall
2) Pathetic defending in regards to both goals conceded
3) You’d never have guessed Arsenal were the side down to 10 men for the majority of the game
4) Chelsea need at least one signing this month, I’d argue whatever the cost to bring in Edinson Cavani is, we should pay it and help Tammy out.
5) Martinelli is going to be a special player and could easily see this Arsenal side going somewhere under Arteta given time
Mikey, CFC


…Before last night’s game, I had a big dilemma, should I sleep early, keep my alarm and wake up at 01:45 am to watch the game (I live in India now btw, moved back a few years ago). I did wake up and saw that clusterf**k of a game and here are my views,

1. Arsenal did not deserve to lose last night; heck they didn’t deserve to lose to us at the Emirates either. Arteta in a few weeks has clearly provided Arsenal with an identity, clear and concise attacking ideas and defensive transition. What has impressed me the most about Arteta’s Arsenal is that they make life difficult for an opponent to slice them i.e. in a totally un-Arsenal way, this team is capable of keeping opponents at arm’s length. And also the players now care, which makes all the difference.

2. I feel for Luiz. He took the fall for Mustafi’s mistake. 11 v 11, Chelsea were far the better side and was tactically playing to plan. The idea was to let Mustafi have the ball and let him make mistakes and it worked. There ended our good performance of last night.

3. After the red card, we played like a bunch of clowns. Reminded me of the PSG game in 2015 when they held to a similar 2-2 draw (again, Luiz on the other side).

4. Frank Lampard inherited a lot of problems at Chelsea. Kepa, Rudiger, Emerson, Drinkwater, Barkley (though Lamps likes him seemingly), Jorginho (I have to put him here now), Willian (Frank, if you rate him, I have no words to say), Batshuai, an ageing Azpilicueta, a regressing Kante (call me bad names, but Kante is having his first bad season of career).

5. That is not to say Frank hasn’t put his own issues to the team. Almost 60% of season done and I still don’t know whether Chelsea have a sustainable football idea. Forget one off games tactical masterclass; as a general rule, do we have a clear structure of play? The most alarming problem is our lack of attacking cohesion. I think we are clueless in attack. What alarms me more is Frank’s idea at least atm is all about crossing the ball. Crossing per se is not an issue, as long as you build up play, move opponents and create clear space for a crosser to whip in one and a runner/finisher waiting to finish with space i.e. how Man City do it. Crossing is bad when you just idiotically cross from all positions assuming one will go through a.k.a David Moyes at United. Chelsea are close to Moyes’ method than Pep’s at the moment (operative word is atm).

6. Frank Lampard has a lot of goodwill from me as he was my favourite player and for finally realising the potential of Mount, Odoi, Abraham, Tomori and James. But it only goes so far. I think our xG metrics don’t tell the full story. Chelsea have a finishing problem, but that is not the main thing. Chelsea have a creation problem despite what metrics show. We just don’t create sustainable good chances from open play and that is because of lack of attacking cohesion.

7. Let me explain this further – this issue dates back to 2011 when Emenalo was building the team. In a bid to be Barca like we ended up buying ball-hoggers and since 2017 mediocre players who are neither ball-hoggers nor good otherwise. If you carefully watch City and Pool, their brilliance is all about their play w/o ball as much as with it. The way each player from GK to centre forward move, it always creates space, moves opponents and stretches play. As an e.g, Man City always ensure they crowd one area of the pitch, move the ball centre around half-space and then a runner who to the opponent never existed in line-of-sight till then suddenly pops up to pick up the cross coming from centre (ideally KDB). This is more complicated than how I’ve written, but this is the essence. It involves moving opponent with the ball, moving your own team mates without the ball and releasing ball at right time. The Chelsea players all keep ball, don’t move and always want the ball. If you don’t have off-ball runners, then your possession is useless. Unless this changes, our situation won’t change.

8. Compound the previous problem with our lack of proper midfield. Because most of our players are ball-hoggers historically last decade, an issue plaguing even now, inevitably when they run into traffic (surprise surprise) in opponent box, it is easy to defend and ball keeps coming back. This is where having a good midfield is key. You need someone to sense and clear loose balls, or retain ball higher up. This ensures that even if we don’t score goals, we won’t concede *good* chances also. Unfortunately our midfield is poor and we end up giving gilt-edge chance to opponents. If an opponent scores with one shot at goal in one game, it is random, if it happens on each GW, it is an issue. Don’t let statistics fool you. We give gilt-edge chances to opponents and this is a structural and personnel issue.

9. Lastly, beyond all of this, when you have Emerson (who has no brains), Rudiger (who has somehow convinced Chelsea he’s a defender) and Kepa (whose technique is so bad that he lets most of shots in his way), even an ordinary chance of an opponent is likely to go in. When it is a good chance, surely we will concede. There’s a reason we don’t have C/S often and it is a combination of points 7, 8 and 9.

10. Of course, Lampard can only do with what he has. I keep repeating again, this is not a sack Lampard mail, far from it. I expect great things from him. But for his part, he has not done good by his choice of personnel at times and substitutions (a point I wrote earlier). I have only one critique of him – he has to coach Chelsea so that we methodically create chances. I don’t want to see us cross-cross-cross (inevitably bound to increase xG statistics without telling the real story) idea. We need to watch other teams and figure out a cohesive attacking plan – to me that is the priority over any transfers.

11. Lastly, I am sure Lampard is learning from this experience, I believe in him and hope he turns things next season with improved coaching and hopefully better transfers (my concern is that we must sell a lot before we buy)
Aravind, Chelsea fan


Oh Michy, you’re not so fine…
If there is a higher power in this world he will take Michy Batshuayi far far away from that Chelsea team. To a land where I will never again have to watch his stupid grin after blazing his 14th effort of the evening over the bar from three yards out whilst simultaneously being two yards offside. I am not just talking about the arsenal game but throughout his Chelsea career he just simply hasn’t been good enough for a team chasing champions league places. The man is basically Jesse Lingard (top notch social media and all) with a bit better luck in that some of his shots end up in the net more through random luck than technique, he never looks convincing. With Abraham hobbling off after doing God knows how much damage by trying to keep playing through his injury, things are not looking good on the striking front.

Surely the sensible thing to do is go all out for Cavani and hope he hits the ground running, he would be relatively cheap in today’s market at around 20-30m even though there is no sell on value you are paying for quality and hopefully goals not a sell on value this is football at the end if the day. But beggars can’t be choosers sometimes you just have to take the punt and hope you get the Manchester United/Van Persie level results from your investment.
Aaron. CFC. Ireland


The Cramps?
Why do the referees in England keep stopping play because somebody has cramp? Is that another new rule I hadn’t heard of?
G Thomas, Holland


…Yesterday the referee stopped the game three times for non-injuries to Arsenal players. Once was when Mustafi was hit by the ball; once when a defender stubbed his toe on the incoming Leno, and once when Torreira apparently got cramp from kicking the ball too hard.

For 2/3 these, Chelsea were attacking when play was stopped. In 3/3 these the player was fully fit and ready to carry on in under 10s.

It’s obviously not just Arsenal players, but how does the game get a grip? How can a professional football game be stopped for a football player being hit by a football? And getting cramp is in part a fitness issue. It’s like stopping a game when a winger outstrips a defender. “I’m not as quick as him so I’ll sit down and the game will he stopped.”

Some referees seem to think they have to stop play because the player pretending to be injured is in their own penalty area and so playing the opponents onside. Let play go on, a few goals get scored in these situations and we’ll see how quickly players bounce up.

Ironically the player who should’ve stayed down yesterday was Tammy Abraham. Between his injury and full time he received no treatment at all because he chose to limp around with no chance of touching the ball – getting in the way, upsetting Chelsea’s shape and eventually opening the gap for Beletti to score.


Thoughts and thoughts
* Newcastle fans – how are you feeling about Steve Bruce now? I was convinced Bruce would relegate them but credit to him – he’s managed to do as good a job (if not better) than Rafa. And that too with a spate of injuries. I’d love to hear from some of the SJP faithful in the mailbox.

* I read about how Eriksen allegedly wants out to join Conte’s EPL dream team of 2017 at Inter. If Inter doesn’t win the league – surely Conte has no excuse?

* 11 point separating 5th and 19th in the middle of January!? Has that happened before? Correction: has that happened with Manchester United, Arsenal AND Spurs in the mix? How do you explain that? Liverpool on a different plane for sure. You could argue City and Leicester on a plane below that. But the rest of the league – would you say it’s great that the non big-six teams are finally punching above their weight, or 4 of the big-six are having horrible seasons or a mixture of both?

* Firmly aboard the Ralph bandwagon now. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the next vacancy at a big-six club starts casting devious stares in his direction. Since that 9-0 annihilation, he has gone about rebuilding the club, players’ and his own reputation – all while playing the same brand of football that he is known for and getting wins (rather than parking buses and trying to keep clean sheets).


John Nicholson’s Hero of the Week last Friday was the great Sergio Aguero.

Given what Aguero has done since Friday and that John is moving house this week and clearly pressed for time, you could just put the same piece up again this Friday. It is no more or less relevant or true then than it is now. The way he celebrated the tap in for his 252nd City goal, to win a match at Bramall Lane that really will not define City’s season on a freezing Tuesday night in January is the mark of the man and the respect he has for English football.
Mark Meadowcroft


Lovely, lovely Newcastle
Dreamboat 2.0 – forget about Cabaye and his beautiful face, there’s a new guy in toon and he bags braces in the witching hour. After his injury woes it’s excellent to see him playing and scoring against England’s number 1 (for now?!).

Bruce got knocked for not having tactics, but I like his innovative ‘you keep the ball and give us a nudge when you want sucker punched’ game plan. I don’t know how long our luck will continue, but for now I’m quite enjoying it.
Ratt Mitchie NUFC – (30 points with 1 goal from a striker, outrageous stuff!)


Ole, Ole, Ole
I have to admit to being a huge Solskjaer fan. I loved him as a player; and as a manager, I see a lot in him that reminds me of Fergie. At risk of burning a straw man here, but Ole does have a ‘reputation’, in some quarters, for being a bit too nice, maybe even a soft touch. I heard one commenter on the radio describe how he was tired of seeing him on TV, smiling, after Utd hadn’t played as well as hoped.

However, this is the guy that cruelly aped Mario Basler’s earlier celebration after he scored the winner in the 1999 CL Final. Same chap that came on as a sub, only to get quickly sent-off for cynically scything-down Rob Lee when through on goal, to keep Utd a nose ahead of Arsenal in the 1997-98 PL title chase. Claiming the Solskjaer is a ‘nice guy’ is surely the preserve of the uninformed moron.

I don’t think Ole is nice at all. I’ve seen Great White Sharks that smile too. I think he is a highly competitive, very ‘controlled’ professional. With ice in his veins. How he manages the press is the thing that actually reminds me of Fergie most. Having the presence and control of press conferences that he does, does not come easy, and I reckon that in the dressing room, he is likely to be even more formidable. Especially with Carrick and Phelan backing him up. That is serious pedigree.

His ‘smiling’ confidence comes from knowing that his side – in the early stages of a total re-build – are 5th in the most competitive league on the planet; and still in all of the competitions they entered at the start of the season (technically…) He also has the backing of 99% of the ‘club legends’ within the punditry, as well as, I would assume, Fergie himself.

As far as the football goes, since Ole took over, United are playing much more ‘like United’, compared to anything we have seen since Fergie. Not over 90 mins necessarily, but in periods. To play for 90 minutes like that takes a world-class squad, and United have not had that since Fergie left. My assessment of this is based purely on the fact that I enjoy watching United games for the first time in years. It’s not scientific.

That said, quite often, the results make me want to bang my head against a wall. Surely Solskjaer feels the same, but he comes out and deals with the press without showing any major signs of the impulse. To do that is no mean feat – to me it shows he is up to the job he has at hand. He doesn’t mope, or throw a wobbler; try to deflect the blame, or make excuses unduly. He just does the press conference.

The United job made Moyes look like a fraud, Van Gaal look like a chump, and Mourinho look like a busted flush. Ole is still just Ole – we really shouldn’t be underestimating that.
I’ve heard all sorts of stuff about stats, from XG to blah. I’ve read all sorts about transfer spend. I don’t think any of that is relevant. Yet. What I see is a team with significant shortcomings when compared to the very best. That this situation was created by previous managers is something noted and yet not actually allowed for by many critics (based on 5live phone-ins etc.) Me? I don’t care about all that bollocks anyway.

I look at what Solskjaer took on, and what United now have. United don’t miss any of the players he has let go at all, and revising Lukaku’s time at United doesn’t change that one iota. He failed – not good enough. Goals at West Brom, Everton, Inter and for Belgium are all well and good, but on the pitch for United, he was shite. So move on.

Lindelof and Fred have improved under Solskjaer and many young players have progressed (inc. Rashford.) One player United do seem to miss is the ertwhile midfield ‘lynch pin’, Paul Pogba. IMHO, the quicker he completes his long-kiss-goodbye, the better; and good luck to any manager that hopes to control that tosser. Fergie has right to let him go in the first place. Great player, total w**ker.

I actually suspect that he is rotting in the reserves – that the talk of injuries and illness being a cover to maintain his value; and his silence, an effort to maintain his own earnings potential.

If I had to pick the first five names on the team sheet for United over the season so far, it would be De Gea, Wan Bissaka, Maguire, James, Rashford. If Sanchez, Young, Lukaku or Smalling were at the club, that would not change, but Herrera might’ve made the list. When these players were signed and by whom does not need stating. Odd mistakes and off games here and there doesn’t change anything wrt the above. What players in the PL have been consistently better? Not too many.

If I had to pick three signings for United, it would be James Maddison, Jadon Sancho and Raul Jiminez. Anyone that is not as proven at Premier League (or equivalent) standard would not be good enough to push United on. There are plenty of players that might ‘strengthen’ the squad or cover for injuries, but for me, only these three should be targets. United should stick with what they have and take what comes this season WITH Ole, and go all-out for these three players.

No manager could have done better since he took over either on or off the pitch, so why does anyone imagine that another manager is better equipped to take them on from here?

Until these three or equivalent can be signed, United have only one option – to keep going with what they have and see which of the youth players can step up into the glaring gaps in the side, while they have that chance. They are doing that, and for me, it makes a hugely refreshing change from seeing them desperately signing the wrong sort of players. Players, that serve only to block the aforementioned happening, in the vain hope of pinning the tail on the donkey.

That – proper squad development – seems to be what is happening under Solskjaer. Utd are 5th, still in all other competitions (technically) and signing only players that are fit for the shirt. All the while, they are improving senior players like Fred and Lindelof, and developing young players like McTominay, Greenwood and Williams, into first team (or at least first 22) players.

Does anyone think, honestly, that signing any (realistic) players other than the three I mentioned earlier would significantly improve United at this point, for any more than the short-term at best? Who are they?

Does anyone think another manager (realistic) could’ve done more than Solskjaer with United’s squad in the past 12 months or so? Who, and what is your evidence of that?
Not trying to be clever, I’m genuinely interested.

Don’t say Klopp, Guardiola, Mbappe, Messi etc. I mean players and managers that are available. Ones that are proven at the highest level, are realistically available etc.

Would any United fans honestly rather such gambles have been taken (again) rather than letting Ole develop the team properly and slowly, like he has been doing? If so, how would that approach differ from what has gone on under Moyes, LVG and Jose? Other than, by virtue of the novelty of the specific tail being blindly wafted about, in the vain hope of pinning down the coveted donkey’s arse?
DD, MUFC, Manchester


…It is wild to me that Liverpool have won every single league game this season bar one (a draw against United) and are 13 points clear at the top with two games in hand, yet, somehow, United losing to them prompted the response of it being the “last straw” for Ole.

Firstly, no, when I hear Ole, I do not hear Moyes. I hear a manager trying to navigate his way around press conferences without blatantly insulting the players after joining a club that has been completely mismanaged under Ed Woodward who has a terribly bad transfer record. I see a manager at the most dysfunctional “big 6” club in England, with the weakest players, trying to not throw anyone under the bus just yet.

For all of his flaws, I do not understand how he is the main target here. 18 months on the job with the youngest United squad of the past several years (who, by the way, were shit for every year before him bar one, and even then we were still pretty shit) and he’s being treated like he’s taken Barcelona to a relegation battle.

If Ole wins tonight (and he might not) he is three points from 4th. He has also managed to get the best out of Rashford, Martial, McTominay and Greenwood and is somehow not in relegation zone despite a midfield fit for a lower mid table team (without Scott and Pogba).

He has many flaws, the most blatant of that being the initial blind faith in Jesse Lingard and the general lack of ruthlessness. He also has wins against Chelsea, Tottenham, City and Leicester which is pretty wild for a manager “so out of his depth.”

So no, I do not hear nor see Moyes when I watch Ole. In fact, while he might not be the man for the job, I’d still rather have him than Moyes, Van Gaal or Mourinho. Would I rather have him the Poch? Probably not, but that certainly does not mean that Ole is the one holding us so far back.

Just last week it was claimed that Wolves have a better team and a better manager (which should, realistically, mean that they should be above us) yet they are still below us and we knocked them out of the cup (which also promoted another Ole criticism piece, somehow, someway).

Point is that you all need to relax, especially you, F365.
Gaaavie, Kaapstad Naaier


Oh Pierre…
Nice article about Pierre van Hooijdonk and it has made me like him a lot more as I had mostly remembered him for the strike. I actually saw him just before Christmas when he came to Eindhoven to watch his son Sydney play for Young PSV against NAC Breda.
Tim Royall GFC


Completely normal
Sunday night I dreamt that John Nicholson came round to mine to watch the Netflix show ‘Can Somebody Feed Phil?’

Normal, right?
Stu, London

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