Mails: Wenger got it wrong, but don’t panic

Date published: Thursday 5th November 2015 10:24

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Embrace it, Gooners
Here’s a list of things that the Arsenal loss to Bayern is and isn’t:

It is:

  • a loss away to one of the best teams in Europe, who we did well to beat on our own turf.
  • likely the end of Arsenals Champions League journey for this season.
  • likely to be our first group stage exit this century.
  • A disappointing result in what’s been a disappointing Champions League campaign.

It is not:

  • the apocalypse.
  • WWIII.
  • The end of life as we know it.
  • #WENGEROUT time.
  • The end of the season.

Please don’t lose the plot fellow Gooners, we’re looking good in the league and the team had some changes made from recent outings. You can question the squad depth if you like, fair play since we all know squad depth/ quality is key especially with our injury pedigree. But when a team can bring Robben off the bench while we bring on Iwobi then it is tough.

We could still sneek through the group but let’s just embrace the idea of challenging in the league and trying to 3peat the FA Cup.
George (dreading the tidal wave of “peak Arsenal” mails) AFC, Wellington, NZ


Wenger got it wrong
We must start at the beginning; I was puzzled by Wenger’s gung-ho approach. The lack of pace in our team meant an effective counter was replaced with quick one touch passing and movement. This inevitably left gaping holes in midfield and on the flanks. I secretly hoped Wenger would start Gibbs on the left and play Alexis as our striker, with Campbell on the right. This would have allowed us to replicate our tactics from the game a fortnight ago.

– The two fixtures against Bayern have, in particular, allowed one to measure Ozil’s progress since the same fixture in his debut season. I thought he was amongst our best players; but most importantly, I enjoyed seeing him assume responsibility and not just drift around, as he often is accused of doing. This, in itself, is a huge improvement.

– Mertesacker was awful. I would love to see Koscielny and Gabriel given a run of games. The injury list is getting silly now. Hope Kos is fit for the weekend.

– I must admit that Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern played some of the most scintillating football I’ve ever seen. Guardiola’s more measured passing game never caught my fancy. Today, however, Bayern put on a performance that combined the electric pace and excitement of the Heynckes iteration with Guardiola’s precise tiki-taka. Plus, Costa and Robben on the wings? Wow.

– My praise above notwithstanding, I still think Bayern are fallible and a more calculated approach by Wenger could have exposed that (the last time he took a measured approach in Europe, we got to the finals). My team probably won’t win the Champions League (they probably won’t get past the group stage even) but I don’t think Bayern will walk away with it. After all, most other teams will play against them to win by avoiding defeat, as they should.

– 3 points from 6 against one of the top 4 sides in Europe is creditable, even if the scoreline tonight suggests otherwise. If we go out, it certainly won’t be because of a defeat at the Allianz.

– Olympiakos won their game at the death. It now sets us up for a grandstand finale. We have to beat Zagreb at home (possible) and Olympiakos must lose to Bayern (possible). That leads to an enthralling game in Greece on the match day 6. Both fortune and fortitude will be tested to the brink.

– If we enter the Europa League, we had better take it seriously and play to win. Thursday to Sunday is no different from Wednesday-Saturday, in terms of recovery. Besides, a trophy is a trophy, especially in Europe where our record suggests we can’t be picky and pseudo-elitist about the trophies we’d like given we have none.

My fingers hurt. Bye.
Deepak (It was all going okay until Willian scored for Chelsea)


Don’t underestimate absentees
I have to disagree with most of what “The Storey” says in his piece on Bayern Arsenal last night.

Bellerin has been immense for the gunners this season and he is a huge loss. Koscielny can rightly be placed among the top defenders in the Premier League and again his omission cannot be understated. While I’m not a massive fan of Walcott I think his pace and ability to stretch a back four is a vital ingredient in the sauce required to smother Bayern.

Lewandowski’s first goal was poorly defended and I couldn’t see Koscielny making the same mistake Gabriel did.

Bellerin would have put up a much better fight than Debuchy against Alaba & Coman. That pair ran riot in the first half with Joel Campbell in particular looking uninterested in trying to stop them.

Bellerin and Ramsey would have put in a much better shift and made a fight of it.

The cap is tipped to Bayern. They are brilliant and certainly even with all of Arsenal’s players fit the task would have been great.

The first task is to stop Bayern and let them grow frustrated. If Arsenal had of managed to make it to half time at nil all who knows what might’ve happened.

Bayern look a little wild in defence and I’ve no doubt Arsenal have the quality to put goals past them.

All if’s and buts I know however I don’t think “The Storey” can dismiss the missing men as easily as he did.
Gough, LFC, Dublin (The real European football returns tonight)


Five things we learned
Some thoughts:

– Owen Hargreaves makes me want to pull out my ear drums with my hands.
– Kingsley Coman and Arturo Vidal have truly hideous lids.
– The mere sight of Calum Chambers warming up filled me with dread.
– Bayern are really really good. (Although perhaps not as good as Hargreaves thinks)
– Arsenal’s third kit must surely be the least successful of all of their kits ever.

That is all.
Cam, AFC


One thing we learned
What did I learn last night?

Dont p*ss off Bayern.
Martin <going to try and make arrows a thing> Ansell


Ozil’s rubbish
To f365 towers, the lovers of Ozil. This kind of night is the reason people think he is crap, the lad was literally strolling on the field.
Mezirim(we are gooners) Nigeria


Blame the kit
I agree with Arsene Wenger, Arsenal were unrecognizable yesterday. That kit is really hideous.
Posab (Great Goal Giroud) Botswana


There’s only Juan Mata
I’ll keep this short. Avant from Sydney says “To play as a No.10 you need to be an excellent finisher when the ball falls in and around the box…” What Avant fails to mention is that this happens when there is space for the number ten to run into. Sneijder at his best had the luxury of playing behind Eto’o and Milito at Inter and Van Persie and Robben for the Netherlands, some of the paciest forwards with incredible off the ball movement. Mata this season has mostly played behind the ineffectual Rooney. Some of his best performances have come when he’s exploited the space created by the much more mobile Martial and Herrera. He also thrives in the give-and-go passing triangles that he creates with the overlapping right back and the number ten in the middle, which Herrera is good at and Rooney (thanks to his atrocious first touch) isn’t.

He is the (joint) top-scorer and the top assister for United in the league. Criticise him when he starts contributing less to the cause.
AB MUFC (He is the only Juan for me), The Office


There is no ‘United way’
I’m loathe to criticise club legends like Scholes and the Great Dane, but I think they are missing the mark when saying that there is a ‘United’ way of playing. We played like that under Ferguson for 20 years (give or take, our style wasn’t nearly as consistent as some seem keen to paint it) because we had the same manager, but, Van Gaal is not only a different manager but an entirely different person (clue’s in the name).

I don’t think our style of play is particularly exciting (although I’m still appreciative of Van Gaal for sorting the defence and cutting some of the deadwood) but I also don’t think it is anti-United – it’s anti-Ferguson but that’s a completely different (and moot) point. New managers will implement their own methods (or just f*ck everything up, cheers Davey) and this will naturally impact the style of play. As the mailbox has previously argued, only Barcelona and Ajax can really be defined by their style of play (and Barca have switched it up under Enrique, so even they aren’t THAT entrenched) – Ferguson could be (over)simplified to attacking with pace, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it applies to United.

Oh and while I’m at it, can Spurs fans stop saying ‘this is very unlike Spurs #lol (emoji x10)’ (or something similar) – you’re a relatively big club who have been finishing just outside the top 4 for a fair few season. Playing well and winning games is actually what you have been doing for a while.
Jack (Mildly irritated by most things) Manchester


Benteke the game changer
I’m getting warm fuzzy feelings about Christian Benteke. Prior to his signing I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of him being our ‘marquee’ signing of the summer. However we then got Firmino which satisfied the desire for an ‘exciting’ player and Benteke’s arrival felt like a sensible addition.

His run in the team has been hampered with injury but when he’s been on the pitch he’s usually changed the game in some fashion either with a goal, an assist or simply providing the team with a reliable outlet upfront. On Saturday against Chelsea he did all of those things with aplomb. While at Villa he played like that against us so it was great to see him rip someone a new one in our favour!

And finally, his goals. My, my, my, he’s scored every type in his nascent Liverpool career. Towering header? Check (vs. Saints). Six yard goal poach? Check (vs. Bournemouth). Clinical drive? Check (vs. Chelsea). Overhead spectacular? Check (vs. Man Utd). We’ve been blessed at Liverpool when it comes to strikers for over 30 years but I don’t think there’s been one that can score every type of goal like Benteke can. He’s nowhere near the hall of fame yet but the early signs are promising. Can’t wait to watch him again.
Nilesh, Harrow


Perspective on Mourinho
I recall that when Moyes went to Manchester United and proceeded to have an awful start (by MUFC standards), one of the main sticks used to beat Moyes with was the “Well this team won the league last season so how poor could they be?” Let’s leave aside the amount of time he had to get the squad the way he wanted it, injuries, and the lack of funds he was given (compared to Van Gaal) and focus on the team he inherited. Champions they were. He brought in really only one player and that was Fellaini on deadline day while the rest of their rivals strengthened significantly.

Fast forward to this season and you have the team that won the league last season currently sitting in 15th and playing some of the worst football they’ve produced in quite a long time. As transfers go, they really brought in only one player in Pedro that was a potential difference maker while the rest of their rivals strengthened.

Say what you want about Jose but I think it’s pretty apparent that it IS possible for a club who, despite the manager, can have a severe dip in form from one season to the next, even if they won the title the year prior. I think Moyes was a bit unlucky in that regard in terms of timing.


The Chelsea mutineer is revealed
Dear Ed,

I fear that Terry Hall, Switzerland, is right that lovely old JT is having a sly dig at someone with his comments, but I think that he misses the mark slightly. Terry criticised Robbie Savage for not having won enough medals or had a good enough career as a player to be qualified to analyse his performance. That seems pretty firmly directed at Jose Mourinho, who could only dream about the playing career that Robbie Savage had. So Jose had better not be too horrible about his defending for that third Liverpool goal.

In completely unrelated news, according to reports at least one of the players at Chelsea isn’t playing for the manager.
Jo, Leicester


We hate your club
Reading your website, and at least 4 United related headlines/pieces.

I’m assuming the Sevilla v Man City game got cancelled last night?

Good job really, as city would have just embarrassed English football again. Nobody beats Sevilla away.

Can you please let us know when the game has been rescheduled for.

Wayne C

(Here’s the match report and here are some post-match quotes. Congratulations – Editor)


More Baggio/Serie A
Loved the piece on Baggio. There are so many legends born from the Italian game. There are some cracking pieces on the lesser known but equally excellent (for different reasons) Dino Baggio and I advise your readers to chase them down. Then there are players like Lentini – now that is a tragedy!

I do take umbrage to Gavin Davids’ remarkable statement which implied that Italy is not known for its football heritage. Maybe in this country – which is known as being quite insular.

Italy’s football history is as rich as England’s and arguably more interesting. Give John Foot’s excellent Calcio a read if you want proof.

On a wider note for aficionados of Serie A there has been much talk of the English Coefficient being under threat. Maybe it will take a few years, but the technical quality of the game in Italy has always been on a different level to England. The pace of some of the top games now easily rivals that of the Premiership – the Inter Juve game in mid October was played at break neck speed for 90 minutes and was 10/10. The old defensive clichés really need to be assigned to the dustbin.

With stadium ownership and improving grounds at the forefront of policymakers drive to make the game appeal to a wider demographic, there is increased optimism that the league will once again establish itself as a more attractive product, with increased sponsorship and TV Money helping to attract more world class players. Maybe one day Serie A will regain the title of ‘best league’ in Europe. Maybe not, but fingers crossed.



Reading the excellent piece on Baggio, I wanted to share a story.

I fell in love with the Divine Ponytail during the ’94 World Cup, as many people probably did. However, my view of that penalty miss is probably somewhat different to most others’. Watching the final with my family, as the game slipped into a shootout and as Baggio stepped up for that crucial spot-kick, my then step-father thought it would be a hilarious idea to turn the TV off just as he started his run up. Cue despairing shouts of anguish from me and laughter from him. When he finally turned the TV back on, it was all over. Baggio had missed, Italy had lost and the focus of the cameras had turned to the victors.

I had missed one of the most important and defining moments of my football-following youth. It still haunts me to this day.


​Sorry to not contribute more to the Baggio w*nkfest (it was an excellent read, for the record) but the Chile penalty should never have been and the Spain winner neglects the fact Tassotti should have been sent off for elbowing Luis Enrique in the box drawing blood everywhere on his white shirt and that pen would’ve won it for Spain. A huge injustice. Need to tell both sides of these tales.

Football is brilliant
Football can be a cynical game. Diving, questionable sponsorship deals, over-paid prima donnas, corruption scandals at FIFA, selling the naming rights to your stadium… it does make you wonder why you watch it at all, sometimes.

That cynicism makes Paul Hayward’s article on The Telegraph website all the more important when I read it this morning.

Sport is one of the great pleasures in life. It has the power to inspire and to remind us of what we can achieve. As Mr Hayward’s article also points out, it has the power to provide solace and optimism for people in times of great turmoil.

A simple message — to most of us here in the Mailbox, it’s probably an obvious one. We’ve all succumbed to the powerful allure of football, after all we are spending our time reading the e-mails of people like ourselves, perhaps a little too addicted to the sport. It’s just a message that’s worth remembering the next time we are wanging on about how much Wayne Rooney gets paid for being absolutely rubbish, or groan when the rumours of Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester United resurface for the hundredth time.

Football is brilliant. Playing it, watching it, talking in the pub about it. Sure, it serves up plenty of dross some times. Just try and remember those fabled moments of magic next time it leaves a sour taste in your mouth.
Tom, Devon (NUFC)

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