Mails: Oh Arsene, why not play Xhaka?

Date published: Wednesday 14th September 2016 10:06

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Deja vu all over again for one Arsenal fan
The horror I felt when I saw the team selection for Arsenal’s opening Champions League match vs PSG was strangely familiar. It took me a little while to realise what my weary Arsenal-befuddled brain was reprising, then it came to me: the FA Cup sinal of 2009.

Arsenal’s season was descending into the usual blend of disaster and disappointment when a ray of light appeared in the form of a chirpy little Russian, Andrey ‘I am Gooner’ Arshavin. He set about pulling the team out of the mire into which it had plunged with some wonderful performances. And as my chum and I arrived at Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea (with Drogba in his pomp), for once we harboured some hope. Perhaps our little Russian would do what he did to Liverpool, maybe Arsenal could rise again. The arrival of the team sheet soon changed all that: Wenger had chosen to start with his not-quite-up-to-it stalwarts, the likes of Eboue, Diaby, Denilson, Silvestre and of course Flappyhandski in goal. Our wonderful Russian genius was left on the bench.

Despite a rare strong performance and goal from Walcott, Arsenal succumbed to the Chavs and the order was restored in the universe. When asked later why he had not chosen to start with his powerfully Russian star, Wenger replied that he wanted his team to know that they could win WITHOUT their expensive new signing. Yes, great logic Arsene and turned out brilliantly as usual. I have a terrible feeling that’s exactly what he was trying to do last night and but for the ineptitude of Cavani, the upshot would have been exactly what it was in April 2009.
Carolyn, (hope now extinguished, again) South London Gooner


Conclusions from PSG v Arsenal
1) Ospina is good. Very good. Man of the match performance from him. Though having your Goalkeeper as MOTM is never really a good thing.

2) Giroud is basically Cavani with shorter hair and a beard. Both need over a hundred million chances to score a goal. Yes, I know Cavani scored with his first chance of the game, but you saw the rest of his performance I assume.

3) I think Arsene Wenger generally does these things on purpose. What other reason would there be for fielding what is, ultimately, a weaker starting XI than what you have available against one of the toughest opponents you will face this calendar year? How Granit Xhaka did not start that game is beyond me. And don’t get me started on why Arsene refused to play a striker when he had two very decent ones warming the bench.

4) Good to know Angel Di Maria is still a bit of a b*tch. Get up.

5) PSG are a good team. Very beatable though. And had Arsenal not conceded a goal before kick-off and had instead fielded football players who know how to pass a ball and move it around a bit, I think they could have beaten them.

6) I think Oxlade-Chamberlain is just not a very good footballer. Either that or he is painfully out of form. Whenever he plays, it is a place wasted in the first XI. He should be dropped. Anyway, I place 10 quid on him being in the starting XI against Hull.
Malcolm, AFC


We drew in spite of Wenger
I heard some people say Giroud should have started last night to prove the Parisian crowd wrong – the best way do that would have been to win Euro2016 – he’s 31 – any opinions of him are pretty set at this point.

But he would have given us a focal point in attack where we struggled to play out of the back at times – giving us the long ball option.

As Matt Stead said, we got a point in spite of Wenger.

He got many things wrong, starting a 31-year-old Cazorla 3/4 days after a busy weekend when he’s just back from serious injury wasn’t the best idea – he looked tired.

We needed somebody with an engine, such as Elneny, and obviously Xhaka (who played well vs Watford, but has now been dropped back to the bench).

I thought tactically he got it horribly wrong, we were far too open and should have been more compact soaking up pressure and hitting them on the break, there was too much space between the midfield and back four.

Since he picked Sanchez up top with Ox/Iwobi (who improved as the game went on) I thought the counter-attack was the plan, but we were too slow moving the ball.

When it did finally make it to Ozil his pass/touch and final ball was off, he wasn’t great against Southampton either – sign that contract and settle down – it’s worked for Eriksen at the lane.

We seem to lack an identity at the moment, I see us qualifying but losing to a better team coached by a tactically better manager (as usual) and I can see the same in the Premier League.

Wenger’s problem is there for all to see, historically Koeman, Mourinho, Pep, Poch and Klopp have all got the better of him and Conte probably will too, do the math, we aren’t going to accumulate enough points against those around us to have a chance at the league, and it’s the same reason we go out in the last 16 year upon year, tactically better managers. Unfortunately Wenger gets it wrong more often than he gets it right these days.

A few side points that I felt didn’t merit writing in about at the time.

Storey’s article on Costa is a joke, magnificent bast**dry is just your creative way of dressing up an overt cheat.

Cheating is the lowest forms of winning in my opinion, it’s not big or clever, why endorse it?

As for Ed Quoth, yes his now standard smug opening line is pathetic but give the guy a break, he’s well articulated and it’s better than reading about Rooney 50x per week.
Strevs, Afc, Canada (Something smug)


And I am not even an Arsenal supporter!!

I’ve never seen a team start a CL game so poorly as Arsenal did tonight. Clueless. The last time I saw something like that was, wait, yes. Arsenal in a CL game.
Greg, Amsterdam (RMCF)


Don’t pick on Wenger
Last year, City draw 2-2 at Parc de Princes and they can take encouragement from their performance. Different circumstances and different stages, and different teams etc but it was a game where both were wasteful and it could have been a hammering either way. City made some shocking mistakes of their own before eventually getting a draw via a deflected effort. Plucky, and not one mention of Pellegrini.

Arsenal draw 1-1 at Parc de Princes and Wenger gets away with ‘Merde’. ‘Arsenal did stop them… for 45 seconds’. But in fact Arsenal did actually stop them, for the remaining 93 minutes and 15 seconds, even if some luck was rode. Why wouldn’t it be? In every European away game no matter the opposition, you need to ride your luck somewhat. It’s not like that changed in the summer because Arsenal purchased a few players.

You give Wenger no credit and Arsenal are judged as if they too haven’t had a stuttering start, much like PSG. Barely passed the test, and apparently tactically inept. Wenger makes subs that impact the game…oh but he should have started with that team in the first place. If a Mourinho team would have done this, and Mourinho made subs that changed the flow of the game in his team’s favour, he would be praised and not criticised. Sir Alex even more so.

(Erm, you might want to check this out… – Ed)

Did you also consider Arsenal were winless from their first two CL games last season after starting with a loss against Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 away from home? A 3-2 defeat followed and we sat with 0 points after two games. I’ve no idea why it makes you sad that fans would be happy with one point away to last year’s quarter-finalists, in what is arguably the hardest game in the group. Or at least it should be, but it’s highly likely Arsenal will ‘Arsenal’ Ludogerets at home.
Rob Stewart (Any English team would take a point at PSG)


…A good point away from home in the toughest game in our group.

Whatever the circumstances, this is what should be reported.

(And that might well be the worst opinion piece ever – Ed)

Methinks, on this occasion, Arsene knew.


On my Edinson
Is Cavani the most overrated player of all time?

How many chances did he miss? Its not an off game kind of thing with him.

I’ve seen him live this summer in Copa America and he looked really heavy and useless. Only good thing I saw him do in that game (Uruguay Vs. Mexico) was press well off the ball.
Mor (El Hadji Diouf easily takes the most hated) Las Vegas


Ligue Un thoughts
1. Mario Balotelli is off to a flyer in France. A penalty (scored despite some grade A sledging from Bafetimbi Gomis []) and a header gave Nice a nice win against Marseille. It’s really hard to dislike Balotelli. The spotlight has been on him from a really young age which has perhaps unfairly portrayed him as a bit of a joker but unlike Bendtner, he is truly talented with goals in the World Cup and the Euros. He is only 26 years old and should theoretically be entering his peak years about now and he is at a good club which successfully turned Ben Arfa’s career around. He really does need an arm-around-the-shoulder approach and in Lucien Favre has a good manager that should be able to bring out the best in him. He’s a big fish in a small pond and the defending in Ligue 1 is laughable at times. Liverpool were smart to include a sell-on clause. Good luck to him!

2. Incidentally, Gomis was Marseille’s captain despite only being on loan. Pretty indicative of the importance continental teams give to the captaincy. Has that ever happened in England?

3. Ligue 1 is truly an attacker’s playground. Outside of PSG, only Kamil Glik (Monaco) stands out as someone who would be of interest to Premier League clubs. This is epitomised by Lyon who have replaced Umtiti with the frustratingly terrible Nicolas Nkoulou (whose approach to defending is ‘lets tackle him from behind and hope for the best’) paired with the terribly frustrating Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (who’s approach to defending is ‘he definitely can’t score from there…oh’). This is a team with genuine ambitions for second place. Lacazette definitely has his work cut out for him. However, in a league where Daniel Congre (Montpellier), a man with zero positional sense and Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (FC Nantes), a man who makes Mertesacker look like Usain Bolt, are regular starters maybe Nkoulou and Yanga-Mbiwa are the standouts.

4. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is a dead ringer for Ryan Shawcross.
Nikhil N, CFC


Mourinho: Just an expensive Tony Pulis
I’m one of the few (?) Chelsea fans who absolutely can’t stand Mourinho and I’m incredibly happy he’s gone. I’ll concede his first tenure at Chelsea was great, lots of passion and plenty of very decent, powerful, abrasive football. But he’s clearly lost his edge, and it looks like superstar players eventually get sick of playing in big games with tactics that don’t include trying to ‘score goals’ or ‘attack the opposition’. Hence his growing reputation for leaving after 2-3 seasons. I landed a few nice bets with mates who are Man Utd fans that were adamant he’d stick with Juan Mata in the derby…so predictable. Poor, loveable Juan.

His second tenure at Chelsea was caustic and awkward from day one, starting with his bizarre opening press conference. Wasn’t his biggest quality his passion? Sorry, it’s gone he’s mature and boring now. We let go Lukaku, De Bruyne, Schurrle, Mata, Petr Cech, and Ryan Bertrand – all have well and truly proven his judgement to be poor. He brought in Salah, Cuadrado, Remy, Felipe Luis, Rahman all of whom were given no real chance to perform, and duly obliged. His insecure attacks on other managers are cringeworthy. The treatment of his own staff was beyond disgraceful and clearly signalled the end. The Carniero affair was a total embarrassment for the club, a PR disaster, and his refusal to simply apologise and admit fault was unquestionably the biggest problem. It’s pretty clear the majority of players soon after downed tools and wanted him out (not excusing that). What kind of other sh*thousery was he up to for them to take such drastic action? I guess we’ll have to wait for JT’s post retirement book! Personally, I turn on the tv to watch our talented players express themselves, enjoy their football and fight hard for the team. It’s supposed to be entertainment. We played for a 0-0 at Tottenham and he walked off thinking he was some kind of tactical genius for putting 10 players behind the ball! Those are 90 minutes of my life I’ll never get back!

I watched the Manchester derby with fascination, and he very simply got his tactics and selections wrong and City were far superior until he made some desperate changes. Ibrahimovic got them back into it and spared a humiliation with a piece of absolute individual brilliance against the run of play. His post-match reaction was also predictable “some players were pathetic and let us all down, but blame me” (or something to that affect), well that’s really taking one for the team, Jose. Have fun Man Utd fans, you can have him and I don’t care if you win. He’s just an expensive Tony Pulis.
Anthony (long live the Conte era!), Singapore


Rooney’s biggest fan questions Zlatan
Is anyone else not that convinced by Ibrahimovic? It’s ridiculous right? I mean he’s scored a goal every game and all have been above decent, no tap-ins. (Ironically he misses tap-ins – which can also be game changing – but that’s not only why I’m not convinced by his place in the first XI.)

The why is that maybe we have better options. He is a classic poacher, scoring but doing little else. I’ve known other players to do more and get more criticism.

Both Martial and Rashford offer strength, pace and a danger that defenders fear…the ability to run at them and beat them with skill. Both were critical to us last year and yet both are on the periphery of the current first XI.

I like Zlatan. I like his arrogance and ego, his aerial threat, the goals he’s already scored and that amazing goal for Ajax with all the feints. But I like our other options more. Keep Ibrahimovic for the Europa and a scary substitute. Like Mhkitaryan.
Guy S


That’s the way to do it, Wayne…
Francesco Totti, at 39, has scored five goals from eight shots, and is making match-changing interventions that positively benefit his team. Apparently losing his pace and physicality hasn’t required that he demands to play anywhere he fancies in midfield whilst disrupting the rest of the team and indulging his ego spraying easily telegraphed long passes to the flanks.

What a wonderful example to ageing strikers across the world.
Chris MUFC


Rodgered up the Barce
I have no sympathy for Brendan Rodgers. He had a choice. He didn’t have to go to Celtic. I thought he had ambitions to progress in the Champions League. Maybe that’s changed. Etc etc.
Mort Snort and loving it. Saints


I didn’t watch the game but…
Why do so many people write into the mailbox and start with ‘I didn’t see last night’s game but….’, it’s of course fine to have an opinion on a game but please watch the dam thing before you then write 700 words on a topic you know nothing about. I would hope none of these people ever become brain surgeons, “I’ve not actually looked at your CT scan, but hey, we are here so let’s open up the skull!”.
Ad Dane (Grumpy, must be a work day) Varna, Bulgaria

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