Mails: Mertesacker Wenger’s worst buy ever

Matt Stead

Anything to say on any subject? Mail us at theeditor@football365,com


Fan mail for Winty
Dear Editor,

I’m not quite sure I’ve ever disagreed so vehemently with a ‘16 Conclusions‘ piece before. Firstly, Ms. Winterburn takes the earliest opportunity to trot out the old classic about Arsenal lacking “​a top-quality striker and a physically imposing central midfielder​.” The worldwide shortage of available, reasonably priced strikers is quite well documented with most top teams unable to strengthen in that area. It hasn’t been helped by one of the possible targets landing himself in the cooler.

As for the physically imposing midfielder, I find it ludicrous for one to suggest that Morgan Schneiderlin or Bastian Schweinsteiger would be an improvement over Santi Cazorla. I’m not sure whether Ms. Winterburn is aware but the Spaniard was dangerously sick before the game, having to come off after experiencing dizziness and vomiting at half-time. As to why he was on the pitch, one need only look at the options on the bench. Wenger has his hands tied and is having to play the same starting eleven game after game. This squad isn’t under-equipped by any means. The annual injury crisis is having its effect and the international break could not have come at a better time. That it happens every year isn’t reason enough to ignore the effects such a damaging injury crisis has on performance.

Also, please refer to (a resource I hear that you’ll refer to regularly) to understand why Francis Coquelin blows every other defensive midfielder in the division out the water. Against Tottenham yesterday, the man was in fine form. That his midfield partner was under the weather didn’t help his cause but there’s very little about yesterday’s performance that would suggest that he isn’t the right man for the job. I find myself banging my head in frustration trying to explain to my friends why Francis Coquelin is simply one of the best in Europe in that role. Pity he doesn’t have the body of Adonis.

As for Giroud, another frustrating performance. Missing chances from the six-yard box isn’t the sign of a man on red-hot form. But we’ve been here before and unfortunately we’re stuck with it. I do feel, however, that he isn’t given enough credit for getting himself in dangerous positions. Considering the alternative is a striker whose one-dimensionality means he can only blow either hot or cold during the course of a game, it is an under-appreciated luxury to have a player who is easy to find. That being said, “top-quality striker” has to be the first thing on Wenger’s to-do list. As for geeing up the crowd, I think that was fair. Watching over the television, the atmosphere felt dangerously flat for a North London Derby especially considering it was so plainly obvious the team was knackered and needed a second wind.

All that being said, Spurs played a brilliant game at the Emirates. As much as I would have enjoyed it, had they lost yesterday it would have been right up there with the soul-crushing injustice of the Bournemouth-Newcastle encounter. From an Arsenal point of view, sustaining a title challenge playing catch-up is going to be much harder than being the front-runner. Also, a two-point lead going into a stretch of four theoretically straight-forward games (is there such a thing, though?) before playing City would have given us a wonderful opportunity to consolidate a lead as we crossed over into the second half of the season. But the season is young and it shall go as it goes. I’m just happy we’re challenging. Long may it continue.
Pranav, AFC


Wow, Sarah Winterburn. Were you punched by an Arsenal fan right before the match? Midway through your 16 conclusions, I almost felt the need to check the result one more time, to make sure we had drawn and not been crushed 5-1 like in midweek. Did our equalizer threaten to mess with the beautiful narrative you had formulated midway through the game?

It’s one thing to criticize Giroud for his wasteful finishing but it’s something else to penalize him for urging on the home support. Would you rather he look down, depressed, and show the crowd an utter lack of confidence? His actions spoke: “I’ll keep trying, we’ll keep trying, we’re going to get that goal so get behind the team!” Yes, we ultimately didn’t get the winner but if there was any team to win it in the last 10 minutes, it probably would have been us.

No one will dispute that Giroud isn’t the perfect striker to solve all our problems, but his movement in the box has dramatically improved in the last few months – his recent headers against Swansea and Everton are prime examples. With Ozil at his assist-y best, every setpiece now feels like a genuine goalscoring opportunity. It’s been a long time since Arsenal fans could say that about our team. I would be more worried if Giroud kept being beaten to the ball or went missing for large periods without being involved.

I’ll let the Cazorla comments slide as his condition was only revealed later by Wenger. Any player playing in a semi-conscious state would be outplayed by the opponent – the right question would be why we didn’t spot it and replace him earlier.

Ok, SOME of the 16 conclusions were valid. I do concur that Dembele was excellent – I felt most worried whenever he was on the ball due to his ability to ghost past our players with ease. Alexis does look like he’s in the need of a rest – maybe he can be an option from the bench 2 weeks from now when we play WBA, rewarding Gibbs with a start on the left wing.

Overall, I thought this was a decent point given our midweek capitulation in Munich. The international break comes at the right time, we should see a couple of players return to action after that – that should help assuming the internationals don’t add more to the treatment room.

Lastly, I refuse to take the bait on that Ozil comment. Though I’m sure some won’t be able to resist.

Aaron, Singaporean Gooner


So Sarah clearly didn’t hear Wenger’s post-match remarks to the press before she rushed off to write her 16 conclusions, huh?  You know, the bit about Santi feeling so dizzy and unwell that Wenger was considering taking him off during the first half?

Listen, I too thought Arsene was crazy not to add another defensive, physically imposing midfielder in the summer–if for no other reason than that Flamini and Arteta can’t adequately replace Coquelin if he gets injured–but to suggest that Arsenal’s poor showing against Spurs indicates that we can’t win the league with a Coquelin-Cazorla midfield axis is a huge stretch, given:

1. They’ve done a pretty good job up to this point (not just this season, but since January), and it’s hardly as if Spurs are the only teams who have fielded aggressive, athletic midfielders against us.

2.  Cazorla in particular has been in great form for much of the year, so much so that arguably the deep lying role is now his best position, not only better than him on the wings but even better than him at the number 10 role (arguably).  In any case, I think most fans and pundits who watch Arsenal regularly would say he’s been one of the best players in the league so far this season.

3.  We were missing Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky (still consistently brilliant whenever he gets a game), Welbeck, the Ox, Walcott, and Bellerin, plus Arteta has only just come back from injury.  Not saying the all-too-predictable injury thing isn’t at least somewhat our fault, but the point is these absences might be a partial explanation for why Spurs dominated for much of the game….Plus, in case you missed it, CAZORLA CAME OFF AT HALFTIME BECAUSE HE WAS SUFFERING FROM DIZZINESS.

But, yeah, jump to ridiculously over-confidant, self-satisfied conclusions about the impossibility of winning the league with Cazorla in that position, and where you “know” Arsenal will finish in the league, based on that first half.  Admittedly, we were crap for most of the game today, but given the difficult circumstances I think a point was pretty impressive from the lads.}
PFo, Oxford

Sarah is probably my favourite writer on F365 but the Giroud-bashing in her most recent article was total nonsense. In 622 premier League minutes Giroud has scored 6 goals, before the Spurs game he had scored 4 goals in 317 minutes (6 games – PL). That’s a very good record. His finishing was off on Sunday but his movement and build-up play were both excellent. This season he is averaging a goal every 104 minutes, a season where has already been dropped and criticised constantly and I think the fact he is still scoring plenty of goals while being “off form” means that he is one hell of a striker. The media are on his back now that it would be obviously ludicrous to criticism Ozil at the moment but I was hoping F365 would know better than to join the media bandwagon.
Rikin (I don’t support Arsenal)


Mertesacker and Cazorla are big problems
Reading through your 16 conclusions and subsequent comments, we can already see Arsenal supporters missing the bigger picture, a very common trait amongst the gunner faithful. You criticise two players in Mertesacker and Cazorla who’s limitations should be obvious but like Wenger, the fans loyalty/myopia to the players is admirable/infuriating.

On Mertesacker, the win against Bayern seems to have clouded Wenger and many into thinking that because Mertesacker performed well against the best opposition, that he’s therefore very capable against any opposition as long as the rest of the team get it right. Well it doesn’t work like that. His physical limitations have been apparent since he’s been he’s been at the club but a working partnership with Koscielny has masked his lack of pace and agility. So yeah there are games where Koscielny has been just awesome enough to cover for him repeatedly so allowing his other qualities to shine. It however should never have been seen as a sustainable way of setting up a defence for a team that wants to challenge.

As long as Mertesacker is a default starter, Arsenal will not win the league. There’s no point in mentioning the presence of Gabriel if he’s not judged by the coach to be better than the clearly flawed BFG. Incidentally, it’s my opinion that Mertesacker is turning out to be one of the worse purchases in Wenger’s reign. Not because he’s a bad player, he’s not, but because he’s a good player who’s not quite good enough. It’s meant that he’s never been bad enough for the need of a replacement to be a priority. Note how transfer talk is for a backup and not replacement. A world cup winner who was dropped from the Germany team in the run up to the final for the exact same reasons why he needs to be dropped at Arsenal.

For Cazorla there are similar issues but being a better player overall it’s even harder to see beyond his positive contributions and observe how his limitations are hampering the progress of the team. Arsenal supporters should consider why this current team no longer ease out games in the last 15 minutes when the team is 2/3 goals up as is usual for a top team. It’s not just Cazorla, but I believe he’s the major reason for it.
Shaz (a draw is a decent result in the end) N19


More Arsenal thoughts
Having  read Winty’s conclusions, I do agree with pretty much all of them. I mean, you could just copy/paste this at various points during the season when Arsenal do struggle. However, a few more things crossed my mind.

Upon watching yesterday’s derby , I feel we really did miss Bellerin’s impact. Same with the CL. Debuchy did put in a good shift yesterday, but that moment where not only was BFG out of position, but Kos played Kane onside, I quickly remembered Bellerin’s roadrunner performance at Swansea. His ability to not only track back, but use his speed to anticipate and intercept the opposition’s passes is quite a beauty to watch, especially given his age. I hope those f*ckers at Barcelona don’t come calling anytime soon.

Next up: The defense. As soon as Kane scored, I immediately had this trigger reaction to blame Per. Well, this time, upon replay, it was clearly Kos’ fault, even if Per could slightly be held accountable for not holding the line. Kos realized his mistake and rushed in Bellerin mode to rectify it. Given that he is liable to a few brainfarts each season, I guess this can be added to that quota so this limit is reached, and soon enough.

I don’t wish to take anything away from Kane’s goal. It was a good, well taken goal. But I wonder why, after all these years of experience, having faced the same situation numerous times, did Cech dive towards the right? Generally, one would expect any striker in that position to open up and score across goal, and not towards the near post, unless you’re Aguero, in which case it doesn’t really matter. That being said, I don’t miss Almunia nor Ospina and am very thankful for Cech.

Regarding the injuries. Even with the existing situation, we could’ve still won the game had Giroud scored that header. This is the strange thing with him isn’t it? The chances that you’d expect him to put away, he doesn’t, and the chances that you generally wouldn’t expect him to score, he does score with some deft touches or flicks. Oh Giroud, you handsome, Sasha (German singer) lookalike, I forgive you.

Lastly, the transfer window. Given that every man and his dog know that we are still missing that top quality player, whether an imposing midfielder to complement or stand in for Coquelin, or a top striker to consistently do what Giroud or Theo wouldn’t, or even someone to permanently replace BFG in the starting line-up (looking at you Paulista),  I’m really hoping that Arsene has something up his sleeve in Jan. Even if that hope is all but 2%. The fact that we only signed Cech in summer gives me hope that maybe Arsene will capitalize in this window, despite his historical reluctance to participate. I don’t know how true these rumours of Lavezzi are but if we can even manage to sign someone of his caliber to offer more consistency on the flanks, I’ll hold onto that 2%.

The other 98% basically means Welbeck will be ‘like a new signing’.
Carl, AFC


It’s the latter
As part of her 16 conclusions, Sarah Winterburn made the point that of Arsenals ten chances against Tottenham, seven were created by Mesut Ozil and that it’s “a shame he never does it in big games”.

I initially muttered some profanities and shook my head in disagreement.

I assumed a North London derby against the most potent and capable Spurs side in many a year would be classed as a “big game”.

Now I’m not sure if our beloved Winty was aiming a direct hit at the detractors of our beloved Mesut, seeing as he had indeed delivered a marvellous performance in a “big game”.

So, was the thirteenth conclusion critical of the Great Ozil or have I completely lost my ability to read between the lines?
Eoin (It’s late, I’m tired) Ireland


Praise Van Gaal over United youth
I know that Van Gaal’s tenure so far has been far from exciting for most fans, but one thing I feel he still doesn’t get enough credit for is just how much faith he’s showing in our youth players. According to the official United site, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, on Saturday, became the 8th academy product to make his debut under LVG, which is really quite impressive.

Some players like Lingard, Wilson and McNair have featured quite regularly in the first team so far in Van Gaal’s season and a half. Others like the splendidly named Axel Tuanzebe and Borthwick-Jackson and Andreas Pereira have featured on the bench on more than one occasion or already made their debuts. Sean Goss and Sam Johnstone have also been in and around the first team for a while. While our squad depth on the whole is far from spectacular, maybe that’s by design, to allow youth players a chance to break through.

After we spent big on Di Maria last summer, we were accused by many of “selling our souls”. It’s great to see that youth players still have as good a chance as any of getting a shot at the first team with United. If we’re able to still consistently get results while continuing to help youth players make the transition to the first team, I think that would set things up quite nicely for the next manager, and hopefully help usher in a period of success.
DJ, MUFC (pretty good weekend overall, for a United fan!) India

Ed’s conclusions
Dear Football365,

I really enjoyed the football this weekend, but you knew that already.

*Alan Pardew spoke afterwards about wanting to take the game to Liverpool.  As far as I can tell this is one up from the PFM-style “having a go”.  That said, a team containing the pace and skill of Palace’s four attackers will always be positive in their attacking play.

*I wonder if the first Palace goal was the result of a Liverpool mindset focussed on their lack of proper striker.  Without a big man up top, or poacher lurking, it was almost as though Liverpool anticipated the main threat coming from an attacking midfielder’s main area, just outside the box.  Had Connor Wickham started, there would have been greater urgency in clearing the ball towards halfway.

That said, Bolasie’s finish was very well taken.

*Wilf Zaha had a very good game.  Any time a player like him comes up against Liverpool’s defence, it’s fill your boots time.  However, his performance yesterday was noteworthy for the quality of a couple of crosses – the one for Bakary Sako’s chance in particular was excellent.

*The Glaziers had just 35% of possession but managed just as many shots on target (4) as the hosts.  Liverpool had 18 shots off target, which is testament to the positioning and organisation of the Palace defence, to restrict them to low-percentage chances.

*Scott Dann deservedly got the plaudits for his performance at both ends of the field.  He played with maturity and doesn’t necessarily get the credit he deserves.  There are a lot of Palace fans who want to see Dann given an England call-up – I’m not sure myself, but if you picked a squad for a friendly solely based on which defenders were in form, you’d have to pick Dann ahead of Gary Cahill.  I’m not suggesting Dann is better than Cahill, just that he is in better form right now.

*Another difference-maker was the return of Pape Souare at full-back.  He is a quiet but assured presence, able to support the attackers and maintain his position to cover whoever is ahead of him – again, it’s a mature presence at the back that helps build a platform for the team to counterattack from.

*Wayne Hennessey played well, showing the form that has catapulted Wales into Euro 2016.  What do you mean they’ve got one of the best attackers in the world?

*Pardew can be insufferably smug at times, but he has lost the chippiness he wore so frequently at Newcastle.  He came across on MotD2 as a manager simply pleased his tactical plan had worked, and pleased for his players they had won.  At the very least, he didn’t describe a win over Liverpool as “an Alan Pardew performance” in the vein of his predecessor.

*The only disappointing moment of the Chelsea result was no one gloating in Rui Faria’s face, giving him a taste of his own classless medicine.

*According to at least one newspaper, Garry Monk might be sacked today.  If this does happen, and he isn’t offered an alternative role within the Swansea setup, then surely I’m not the only one hoping he does his PFM credentials a massive favour by doing a Reidy, and resuming his playing career somewhere lower down the leagues.

The literary Ed Quoththeraven, CPFC the Glaziers, Notts


As an aside…
Admit it F365,

You have given in to his demands,

Ed Quoththerraven has a Rooney style contract whereby he gets published regardless of form!


Not good enough, ‘Pool fans
Liverpool fans in attendance at Anfield, YOU ALL NEED TO GET SERIOUS!!!! I am tired of this halfhearted cheering that you call support. This snobbish type behavior where you only clap and echo out a quick “Ayyyy” only after Coutinho displays his sexy Brazilian flair really grinds my gears. This isn’t a tennis match being played in front of you where you are only allowed a brief moment of clamor to stay awake, THIS IS BLOODY ANFIELD damnit!

I remember not too long ago a game being played at Selhurst Park where Liverpool stormed to a 3-0 lead and guess what? Those INSPIRATIONAL Palace fans couldn’t care less what the score was, they continued belting out songs, chants, taunts you name it for the entire 90 minutes and the end result? 3-3… Listen here and listen close, we are not entitled to anything other than 100% from the players and I thought they dug deep considering all the football we have played recently. It’s our responsibility as home support to create an atmosphere to make the opposition uncomfortable throughout the whole affair which in turn rubs off on our players to raise their game. I’m tired of seeing pr*cks streaming out of Anfield with 10 minutes to go as if expecting our slightly above average team to steam roll opponents every home game, which quite frankly won’t happen! Jurgen Klopp was as p*ssed off at you all as I am while watching the aforementioned pr*cks leaving early; I quote “I felt pretty alone in this moment.” After using my trusty gaffer to English dictionary I found this of course translates to, “what the the hell is wrong with you idiotic Scouse motherf*****s?? Leaving me hanging out there to get the f***ing team pumped up by my f***ing self?”

What happened to the belief and all that hype about Liverpool as a whole being rejuvenated? That buzz seemed to have only lasted 2 games. Away support you are excused by the way.

Then again I’m just a guy that’s passionate about Liverpool and has never stepped foot in the UK so what do I know?
DarkDangerousMan (Hoping Anfield season ticket holders are also avid mailbox readers) LFC, Zimbabwe


New manager, unbeaten in 7, a renewed vigour to your style of play. After going 1-0 down at home you pull one back and the possibility is there to go on and win it, but unfortunately you concede in the 82nd minute. With all the optimism that came with the appointment of Klopp and with at least 10 minutes left to play, what do you do? What DO you do?

Some Liverpool fans choose to leave. Unbelievable Jeff. Unbelievable.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool  


A reluctant #JoseOut
To answer Posab’s first question, a manager has the entire week to influence how his team will play on the matchday. He was probably constantly in touch with his assistants and having an effect on the game from afar. A player who is suspended cannot influence the match in any way. Pretty obvious if you ask me.

For Chelsea, everything sucks at the moment. Putting aside the off the pitch matters like Jose’s constant complaints, childish tantrums and atrocious behavior towards our medical staff, the football has been largely terrible and our confidence is shot. Looking at the team, its clear that Mourinho just can’t get them motivated to give their all on the pitch. Only Willian seems to be better than last season and the rest just don’t seem to be trying that hard. Now, while this is definitely the players’ fault, when so many players’ form turn to shit, there is only one constant and that’s Mourinho. Yet, it seems that most Chelsea fans continue to have faith in the manager and are confident he can turn it around and we would get back to grinding out 1 nils. That hasn’t happened so far and doesn’t look like it will be happening anytime soon.

He won the title last season and will always be a legend at the club but is that enough to excuse him from the disaster that has been this season? Should we persist with him to the detriment of the team’s fortunes? Does it have to reach a point when even the fans start turning against him for it to be sacked. We can’t seem to stop the other team scoring and if a coach renowned for his ability to keep the other team from scoring can’t even manage that then just what is he good for? He is supposed to be a great man manager but now seems to spend his time picking petty fights and making ‘statements’ by dropping key players.

The question many fans seem to have is that who is better than Jose and available at the moment but is it even possible to do worse. Manager changes are never sure things but in this case its a matter of mentality and not (lack of) ability. The biggest benefit of the next guy might simply be that he isn’t the last guy.

There is one comparable example in Europe. Borussia Monchengladbach. Lucien Favre played some absolutely thrilling football and got BM into the Champions League last season. They even beat Bayern (although the title had been won by then). This season, however, BM started with 5 straight losses in the league. Favre resigned after that. Andre Schubert was appointed as the interim manager. He had very little experience of top flight management and was in charge of their U-23s. Well, he recently equalled a 30 year Bundesliga record for consecutive wins for a new manager. Not saying that this would definitely happen if Jose was replaced but its not impossible given the potential of the team.

In conclusion, Jose’s time is up as he won’t be able to turn this around.
Nikhil N,CFC


Some Villa thoughts
Who’d have thought it? Villa hire manager who knows what he’s doing and we put in our best performance of the season.

Yes, Citeh seemed a bit drunk and we were lucky as hell; obviously we’ll still be bottom for the next fortnight at least, will be a job to get out of the bottom three by the end of the year, and celebrating a 0-0 at home shouldn’t be much to write home about. But but actually playing football was several steps in the right direction.

Nothing more than a coincidence I’m sure, but there was no sign of Lescott, Richardson, Agbonlahor or Westwood on the pitch, or of a British manager in the dug out. Sky PFMs probably going crazy.

I’m not going to defend that bulls*** from Gestede by the way. Clown.
Neil Raines

Famous victory for Lawro
Lawro’s trick of always predicting one all in big games finally worked again if he hadn t been a great footballer he’d be  in a shady flea market selling tourists one handed watches twice a day at exactly 12 oclock .
Timi MUFC 


Love for Neymar
17 goals, 7 assists and a “Bergkamp” to add to it all. Every time the ball lands at Neymar’s feet, something sexy happens. He is bringing the Ronaldinho back to football.  And I love it.
Garthie P (Bring back Matt Stanger’s Spanish Thing… I beg of you) Cape Town  


Master of the dark arts?
Costa…oh the arch protagonist of the “Dark Arts” as commentators love to remind us…he knows what he’s doing, psychologically challenging the opposition to react first using the most subtle and 007-esque methods he’s perfected over many years. Like waving your hand under your nose and saying “Oi, Ryan, you stink”. Not quite Voldemort is it?
Tim, London