Arsenal have great depth but still have a Cazorla shaped hole in midfield

In the Guardian weekly podcast from Thursday there was the following exchange about Arsenal*:

James Richardson: They’ve got strength on the bench. They’ve upgraded their team on the field: with Sanchez doing better in the striking role (if you like) than Giroud (arguably) was doing, Mustafi looking better than Mertesacker, Xhaka looking like an upgrade on.. well I was going to say Jack Wilshere but he was never there. And yet when James was saying that he believed, Philip, you… an ironic kinda “poof” escaped your lips, why?

Philippe Auclair: No no no! “I want to believe.” I think Mustafi is absolutely crucial and he’s why my opinion has changed slightly since the beginning of the season. Before the arrival of Conan (this is how I heard it and from now on we should call him Conan -Tim) Mustafi I thought “nah, it won’t be their year” but I have to agree with everything James has said. In terms of the squad, the quality of the squad is genuinely one of the very best in the League. Absolutely, without a doubt.

James Richardson: mmm. I’m just thinking about how we are going to look back on this conversation in January?

Philippe Auclair: He’s now got Xhaka, he’s got Coquelin, he’s got Elneny. When was the last time Arsenal has had three defensive midfielders who were actually defensive midfielders? When was the last time that Arsenal had two very very good keepers? Which is the case. You look and the possibilities up front as well, they have loads of possibilities.

James Otherguy: Right but they’ve been here before though.

Philippe Auclair: And we are talking about the team that is still waiting for Aaron Ramsey to come back, who can be a very important player in the second half of the season. So, yeah, I can understand why people would be optimistic.

January is now. Arsene said that Santi Cazorla suffered an Achilles injury, possibly in the same place as last season and that leaves questions for me about the Arsenal bench.

But first, I have to agree with the guys on the pod. Let’s start at the back.

Auclaire is big on Mustafi and for good reason: Mustafi and Koscielny complement each other and complement Arsenal’s playing style. Arsenal like to play a high defensive line, or more appropriately, Wenger likes to play an aggressive defense. This typically means stepping in to intercept the ball.

However, when one player steps to intercept, if he misses, that opens up problems in behind. Which is why Mustafi and Koscielny augment each other nicely: both can step and both have the speed to cover if there is an error. In the past, Koz had to cover for Mertesacker, who was slow to recover and any missed interception or tackle caused panic. But more than just cover, Koz also had the responsibility of stepping up and taking the passes away and he often led Arsenal in interceptions. This led to a situation where Koscielny was both the stopper and the cover.

This season, Mustafi is making more interceptions than Koz but not by a whole lot, they are 3.2 to 3 respectively. Mustafi is leading Arsenal in tackles per game (3.4) and is tackling at a high rate, having missed just 2 of his 19 attempts and meanwhile, Koscielny has been freed up to make more blocks and his blocks per game are up to 1. They are feeding off one another; one steps, the other covers and the same in return.

Both of these players are also capable of taking the ball out of the back and making long, vertical, passes on the ground to bypass the opposition midfield and get the Arsenal attack started.

Where they are going to struggle is with aerial duels. Mustafi is above 50% this season (12/22) and Koscielny is at 57%, just about his career average. As I pointed out in the post-match breakdown against Swansea, neither man was really challenging for some of the aerials and Swansea generated two wide-open big chances off headers. Middlesbrough is going to be Arsenal’s biggest test in the air so far this season: they are 2nd in the League in aerials per game, Negredo (their forward) is 4th in the League in aerials won, and they have scored 4 of their six goals off headers with 3 of those coming from set plays.

Still, there is no doubt that this is exactly how Arsene Wenger wants Arsenal to play football at the back.

As for the midfielders, I’m hesitant to call Elneny a “true defensive midfielder”. He is a strong runner and a shy tackler – he tackles at about half the rate that Xhaka and Coquelin do on a per90 basis. He is more like Cazorla in his defensive stats and that makes sense because I see him more as a backup for Cazorla. With injury to Cazorla revealed today, and with Ramsey still at about 90% fitness, Elneny will probably get the start this weekend.

As I’ve mentioned before this is where Arsenal’s squad are probably the weakest. Elneny is a great runner but he’s not a like for like replacement for Cazorla. He lacks the set-piece prowess of Cazorla, the dribbling (less than half as many this season), and the vision to pick out a teammate.

But more important than the stats is that Wenger has been inverting Cazorla and Coquelin in the Arsenal midfield. He’s told Coq to go play between the lines and win the ball higher up the pitch. Then he’s given Cazorla the responsibility with the ball in the deep pivot. Cazorla does this very well because he’s an excellent long passer, he’s made 20/25 long passes this season, and Cazorla is an excellent dribbler. Elneny was 65% long passing last season with 19/29 and is 1/2 this season and Elneny is much more likely to look for a back pass than to try to attack the opposition defense with a dribble.

Somehow, Arsenal need to be able to advance the ball with these two players this weekend (Xhaka is suspended) and that might prove difficult. Worse, any long-term injury to Cazorla will require a rethink to the Arsenal system because while Xhaka can and does pass the ball as well as Cazorla, he’s not as mobile as Elneny, and he’s not anywhere near the kind of dribbler that Cazorla is.

While I think this team is better than many of us gave it credit for early in the year I also think Middlesbrough is a bigger test than many believe. It’s a test of Arsenal in the air, can they apply pressure on the ball and give Negredo and company a hard time on long passes? And it’s a test of the Arsenal front four and whether they can drop and collect the ball, and then whether Iwobi and Walcott or Alexis and Ozil can fill in those spaces to create threats.

Qq

*Apologies if I mix up James Horncastle and Owen Gibson.

47 Comments on Arsenal have great depth but still have a Cazorla shaped hole in midfield

  1. Bottom line for me is… I’m not sure we’ve ever had a player that can do what Cazorla does. He is the perfect deep-lying playmaker. When attacks break down and the ball comes back to him, he has everything. He can shoot from distance, he can find the killer pass, and he can dribble past people. And all with either foot. And he does his defensive duties better than one might expect from a player with all those other things. He is the player that makes us tick and that we missed so badly when he got injured last season. We just have to hope that some combination of the other 3 (and Ramsey when he comes back) can cover for him to some extent.

  2. Interesting.
    I agree we are very dependent on Cazorla. We can either try to replace him or find a different way to attack.

    Ox would be a possible replacement, but I think his judgement is poor. He has lost possession in our own half too many times for me to be comfortable trusting him. Though Arsene might want him to step to the plate.

    Were he here, Wilshire could have given it a go as he’s probably the long term replacement for Santi. But he’s not and I don’t think he’s quite ready anyway.

    Perhaps the best solution is to use Elneny and have more people showing for the ball when he gets it, so that he isn’t put into a position where his skills aren’t up for the challenge. I would task Ozil with coming deeper to start moves as he has the ball handling and distribution skills. I’m not sure how big an effect it would have on our offense. We might miss his goals, but he’d still be able to come forward. Just not as far forward. We’d be at much greater risk if Boro try to mark Ozil out of the game though.

    The other possibility is to bring in Giroud so that we can play long ball a bit more effectively. Though that’s a pretty big change in style.

  3. Very important piece, thanks for this.
    We again could struggle if cazorla breaks down.. not one player can do his job alone. However we have seen scarcely anything of elneny this term, wonder when will he start a match.

  4. All that is being said here is that Santi is irreplaceable, and I agree. But it still does not mean that Elneny would not do a great job in his place.

  5. Unique player is unique.

    We are so lucky to have Santi. How did the the two Spanish giants miss the diminutive genius? A great player, has constantly adapted his game to make the team better, and definitely going to be very difficult to replace.

    That said, last season when Elneny was bought I expected him to be more Arteta than Cazorla. But alongside Coquelin he did a similar job as Santi. His neat, quick, short passes got us up the field quickly and effectively. He was also defensively aware and mobile enough to be in the right places. His inability (or unwillingness) to dribble through opponents might be a problem against some of the big sides, but against Middlesbrough, we should be fine.

    In the longer term, Santi’s absence will be covered by a shift to a Xhaka-Ramsey partnership. Both players need to improve on certain aspects of their role, and also adapt to each other. Though the latter might even help with the former. Potentially, that partnership could work as well as the Arteta-Ramsey midfield, and gives us options in midfield we did not have last season.

  6. I don’t think there’s any player in world football who’s as good as Santi at what he does. Plus he’s ambidextrous to boot. As Shard mentioned, the man is unique in every way. A metaphysical giant.

    Long term replacement? I doubt there’s any good enough, even in the market, with his skillset. Maybe Hernanes, as Auclair once mentioned him to be almost as good with both feet as Santi.

    Please extend his contract.

  7. Iwobi is the only other player in the squad to pass the ball to himself with both feet as Santi does. That is new from him this year. I have great hopes for him as he matures as a player. He never will be a second Santi as he is a one in a lifetime player but I strongly suspect in a few years the pundits will be calling emerging players the ‘new Iwobi’.

    • Iwobi doesn’t track back very well yet, he’s been leaving Nacho exposed. I’m also optimistic he’ll get that side of things sorted out, though.

  8. There are and have been other players similar.

    Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, even Mata has similar skills, just never employed in a holding roll.

    If someone could I still some composure to Ox’s decision making, he really could be a beast in that position as he has the close control added to pace. A young Wilshire also had similar ability but he will need that full season on loan before we know if he will ever get to that level again.

    • I don’t think Cesc could ever dribble and accelerate out of tricky spots like Santi, and he certainly can’t now. Agree that those other players can do something similar (Silva is the other obvious one–noticing a trend?), but it’s not like any of them are available on the cheap to sit on our bench as a backup until Santi gets injured…

  9. Santi has been my favorite Gunner since that 1st of 2 FA Cups to end the trophy drought. Happiness is many things, one of them is Cazorla retiring in Arsenal shirt.

  10. I’m shocked and amazed that the Guardian weekly podcast were complimentary about Arsenal.

    The Santi we see now isn’t the same player who arrived from Malaga. He needed a long period of adaptation and I think he’s playing the best football of his career now even if he’s less mobile. That experience, the years of adapting a technical game to the physical demands of the league – that’s what anyone stepping in for Santi has to emulate. They don’t need to be Cazorla 2.0, especially if they can compensate with extra physicality, goals from midfield or an even larger passing range than Santi. That’s why it makes perfect sense to me that Xhaka was bought to play in Santi’s position, not Francis Coquelin’s.

  11. Well, this kind of match shows the problems that Arsenal could have with the roster that they have. Theoritically, Arsenal are well equiped to be a chameleon, with all their different type of players. It does seems to be really hard to achieve.

    The absents of Cazorla should have trigger the front four to create more quick passing and one two, which is more risky (they do this more toward the end of the match). The risk would be dampen with having two DM in Coquelin and Elneny. Instead, they expect Elneny to be Cazorla who absorb pressure and create. If they still can’t adapt to a different type of personel, it was best to use Oxlade Chamberlain, who probably the closest in skillset to Cazorla in our squad, from the start in the middle.

  12. We did miss Cazorla today and it’s a worry that taking one player out of the lineup throws us off kilter. To some extent I can accept that but I’m even more worried about our defending. Middlesborough easily had four of the five best chances of this game and it took an excellent performance by Cech to preserve a point. Against two relegation threatened sides we’ve given up 8 big chances and it took some very timely and risky interventions by Ospina to keep Ludogorets from scoring. If we don’t sort this out and start defending better, our luck will run out and opponents are going to start converting the chances we give them.

  13. Cazorla is a fantastic player, but his absence today is being way overstated. Someone listed long-range shooting among his attributes. Really? Cazorla has found a good niche at the back of the midfield and his football brain knits defence and attack for us very effectively, but in truth he doesn’t get enough goals, assists or key passes for such a good player (his lofted assist/pass to Mresut on Wednesday was a gem). Santi was not effective as the left-sided creator/winger or pulling the strings at No. 10. Don’t get me wrong, great player. But we have more then enough depth to cope. His ideal replacement would have been Wilshere — who was good against Spurs today — but I’m glad that Elneny had an opportunity to play.

    Santi played against Burnley, a game we won in the last minute, but could have ended like this one. On another day, we’d have won this too (and lost it, to be fair).

    Im more concerned that yet again, when we havea chance to go clear at the top, we faltered again, as we did several times last season. Do we freeze, or did we just have oen of those games where opposition stifling worked?

    Ramsey and Giroud are nearly back, and that will provide us with increased options. Crucial period ahead, as Novembers have not been kind to us in recent years

    • Basically the point I made earlier – Santi hasn’t always been this effective. Once Wenger stopped used him him wide-left or at No.10 and moved him into a deeper midfield role (often alongside Arteta) he became much more influential. Even then we had a long period when we couldn’t win games away from home with those two in midfield despite being our best CM pairing.

      Wouldn’t be too concerned about this game fitting into the narrative of us “not taking the chance to go clear at the top”. That takes too much away from what the squad has done to get into this position with essentially a new line-up. It was very much a post-Champion’s League performance from the start. We still need Giroud’s physicality. And Arsene has to somehow enforce rest periods for Mesut, Hector and Alexis – those 3 weren’t as sharp as usual

      Shout-out to Victor Valdes, panful as that was to type. Ex-Barca keepers rocking up at Middlesbrough and rolling back the years against us is just peak Premier League.

    • Um, I think it’s a bit of an overstatement to say Santi wasn’t effective as a left sided attacker or number 10. He was terrific, in one of those positions or the other, during basically the entirety of his first year. His second year, after Ozil came and took centre stage, wasn’t as productive, but even then he was beginning to lose a bit of the zip in his legs with age, and Wenger moved him deeper the next year to compensate.

      • You’re right. He was sensational first year, though not so much afterwards. But yes, I overstated things there. He’s an excellent player, but hardly irreplacible. The real problem today wasn’t so much Santi’s absence as the combo were were forced to field. Coquelin and Elneny are both limited as passers and knitters of play between defence and attack, even though both are good players. Coq/Cazorla are complementary, as are Ramsey/Xhaka, a combination that I hope we revert to in time. Tricky times for Elneny, who has lost the most from our having a crowded midfield. Seems to me like we bought him because he was a very good player available at a low price, rather than for plugging a gap that needed to be filled. Glad he got a game today, because his position with Egypt gets more precarious the more time he spends on the bench. Agree too that’s time for some rotation, particularly of Alexis and Ozil.

        • I think Xhaka and Elneny are also a promising partnership. Elneny has the legs to get around the pitch while Xhaka sits deep and has more strength, and both are very quick passers of the ball when they put their minds to it. I know it was only Forest, but they looked good in that respect in the last league cup game. I think Elneny doesn’t have much of an understanding/confidence in Coquelin to play those quick one and two touch triangles in the middle, which are his preferred way of breaking through the first line of defense, but with Xhaka he does.
          On the other hand, Coquelin has to cover Elneny in terms of tackling–arguably even moreso than when he’s beside the diminutive Cazorla–because the Egyptian is still really struggling to get stuck in on a regular basis. He get’s close to opponents but they get past him far too easily and often. Obviously the PL is way faster and more physical than the Swiss league, and he’s still relatively new, but I hope they’re working on him bulking up a bit in training. This to me is a far more serious weakness to his game than his passing, which is pretty good, I think, though today Boro really cut off all space between the lines in the final third.

      • My memory’s not perfect! Those two did play CM together although mostly it was Flamini (at the start of his second spell) who partnered Arteta.

        Sidenote: whilst doing some quick research on those two playing together just now, I came across an article I completely missed on Arseblog News; an English translation of Arteta interviewing Santi a few months after he signed from Malaga (http://news.arseblog.com/2012/10/arteta-interviews-cazorla-for-as-awesomeness-ensues/). Great stuff!

  14. I thought we were evolving to rising above these performances and relapses.

    A clear chance to go top and…
    We “Arsenal it up”. What is it going to take to move beyond this kind of game that puts the handbrake on image middle of a purple patch?

    And no , I’m not in anyway “grateful” for a point against an opponent we should have dealt with early and often, Santa or no.

    • See my comment below: we weren’t great, but they parked the bus, and sometimes this means you don’t score. It happens. Especially to teams entirely devoid of a center forward presence who’s a threat from crosses. We need Giroud back asap for these sorts of situations. With the exception of a period in the middle of the first half where we let them grow in confidence (the first goal was always going to be all important), I don’t think it was too terrible of a performance, just hugely frustrating.

  15. 1. I love this website, and I appreciate Tim’s articles and tweets, but I think we all (i.e. football fans everywhere, Arsenal fans in particular), need to resist a reductive attitude that tries to blame success or failure on one thing, and expresses opinions about the team with complete certainty and an I-told-you-so smugness when events transpire that are consistent with one’s predictions.
    2. I love Cazorla. But did we fail to win today only because he’s injured? Hardly. As has been pointed out, he played against Burnley and Leicester, two games in which we also struggled to break down a team who sat deep with almost everyone behind the ball and looked to counter.
    3. I get that Tim doesn’t think much of Elneny, but he wasn’t “useless” today, as one tweet had it. He collected the ball from the backline with composure and played through the lines really nicely on a number of occasions. He played too many sideways passes, but then I think this had more to do with Boro’s defensive organization than with his passing inadequacies (I think he’s gotten an unfair reputation as being only a safety first passer since he’s come to the club–he certainly doesn’t slow down moves the way Arteta did in his later years!). Pretty sure Santi and Xhaka would also have racked up a lot of sideways passes against that Boro team today. Santi would have perhaps broken them down on the dribble more, but there really are very few players in the world who combine the deep-lying playmaker role with the ability to dribbling brilliantly in tight spaces. Not saying there aren’t more creative deep lying players than Elneny (Xhaka for one), but against a team who parks the bus like today, would slightly more creativity from deep have made much of a difference? I doubt it.
    3. We looked a bit leggy after midweek. Boro had the whole week to prepare for us. Just an unfortunate fact about the way football is currently organized, but we can’t pretend it doesn’t favor them.
    4. We weren’t great today, but I think sometimes fans and commentators understate just how difficult it is to break down a really well drilled defensive team. A mistake or a moment of brilliance can do it, of course, but there’s no guarantee that those moments will come in 90 minutes. It’s unfortunate that football is such a fundamentally defensive game, in my opinion, and I think the laws should be tweaked to redress the balance just a little (making the goals slightly bigger would do the trick, I think), but until that happens, really well drilled defense will have the upper hand against offense. Of course, it’s hard to stay concentrated for 90 minutes against superior opposition, and in any event a win is three times more valuable than a draw, so no team can rely on goalless draws to save them from relegation, but they can choose to play for the draw when they come to Arsenal, and the sad fact is a lesser team will always level the playing field to a considerable degree just by choosing to be negative against us (provided they’re at least competent in defense): we might be, say, 3 times more talented than the Boro team (obviously an arbitrarily chosen number just to make my point), but that advantage is not reflected in a corresponding 3 times greater chance of winning if they decide to park the bus like that. The advantage is still ours, but by much slimmer margins.
    5. The biggest miss, I believe, was not Cazorla but Giroud. With Welbeck also out, we have no serious presence in the box. I’m not a huge fan of OG, but he has his uses, and games like this, where the opposition has 8 or 9 players camped in their area, are where he could be the difference, getting on the end of crosses and knocking the ball down to the likes of Sanchez and Walcott.

  16. If I were Wenger, and if Santi ends up being out injured for a while (please, Lord, let it not be so!), I would seriously consider playing Iwobi alongside Coquelin, with the Ox or Lucas or Ramsey coming in further forward. He played there a few times last year (in the FA Cup, once I think, and late in the game against West Ham?), and looks like he has all the attributes to give us an approximation of what Santi does (albeit without the experience), but then, can anyone else give us what Iwobi has been providing further forward….

    • Good comments, PFo. I don’t think the Iwobi in midfield thing is happening though.

      The most disconcerting aspect here is our consistent inability to deal with direct, powerful runners. Barrow last week, Traore this week. The boys looked leggy and after Boro weathered the first 20 minutes I feared for our ability to spark something. Cech was the man of the match for us and saved a point and a lot of face.

  17. As for the main article, yeah, why not? This is the best team we’ve had in a long time, probably since 07/08. Our two best players are in their prime and we have a good back line and a good supporting cast in every position. Giroud, Welbeck and Ramsey will make this an even stronger squad. Today and against Burnley we really missed the plan B that they could’ve provided.

  18. Half agree. Yes, Cazorla is the dog’s knees and the bee’s bollocks, and with the free kick in the FA Cup final, the scorer of our single most-important goal in recent history, and a true legend. But was he really what was missing yesterday? We were not weak in deep midfield, we had no problem breaking their lines and getting into their final third. Elneny was efficient. We were having trouble breaking into the box, which is something Cazorla does not often do himself, though he does provide many of the through balls. Still, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez and Walcott (and Ox and Lucas) between them should have been able to combine effectively. Overall I would have preferred Giroud on the bench to Cazorla.

    On the other hand Ozil looked tired, gave the ball away cheaply for two of the Boro breaks if I remember aright, and should not have been two yards offside in extra time. His assists total remains at 0. Not to pick on him, but if we are highlighting individuals I think he’s at least as important…

  19. Watched most of the game yesterday and while it’s disappointing not to get the win it wasn’t through lack of effort on the players part and we continue to look like a proper team.

  20. We all admire and miss Cazorla but I agree that his absence was the sole or even the main reason for dropping points yesterday.

    Yes we looked a little leggy and yes they like so many others parked in the bus in patches.

    A contributing factor is that were too rushed in attack, not nearly patient enough and fell into the offside trap far too often. It was offside that snatched it from us at the end.

    The Manager’s comments about finding the right balance between confidence and humility are so true. Yesterday was also example of that.

    If you haven’t seen Wenger’s comments from yesterday about standing at The Pearly Gates you should check out Arseblog’s match preview.Another classic quote and also true: it really is harder than it looks!

    Onward boys: CYOG!

  21. We ran out of steam yesterday both physically and mentally. It wasn’t for want of effort. Elneny was Elneny: It’s unfair to fault a player when he plays like his usual self! Although I’ve my reservations about Giroud (and especially)Ramsey, there’s little doubt that having them available yesterday could really have made a telling difference. Their qualities, like those of Welbeck, are under-rated. Having them back and match-fit will be a huge fillip for our title chances. No team is going to run away with the EPL this year. I saw Liverpool just get over the line against West Brom. Even now, Man City are struggling to break down Southampton.

  22. Of course one shouldn’t blame yesterday totally on Santi’s absence. But I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the difference between yesterday and previous games was so similar to the difference between last season’s pre- and post- Santi injury games. Someone questioned my bringing up his shooting. Sure, he may not score as many of those as Alexis or others, but I do believe it’s something that adds another question mark in the minds of defenders. Like someone else said, I’m hopeful that Xhaka may be the answer. Shame that his ban coincided with Santi’s injury.

    As for yesterday, I was shocked to hear people at the ground screaming about how “we’ll never win anything if we can’t beat this lot” and so on. Even the invincibles had a dodgy draw or few. Good runs always come to an end. For me, it’s a time to celebrate that run rather than bemoan its end. And look forward with optimism.

  23. I still have hope for Ramsey… Think a partnership of him and Coquelin would be better than Elneny and Coquelin when we’re playing against parked buses.

    Very disappointing to drop points to Boro, one of the worst teams in the Prem.

    • I checked today and found it interesting that while Middlesbrough are 19th on home form they’re 10th on away form.

      Not saying we shouldn’t be beating them but their away form isn’t terrible.

  24. Could be right about Ramsey, too, although he doesn’t have the all-round game or ridiculous two-footedness of Santi (I know, I’m asking too much!).

    Just to play Captain Hindsight for a moment… it seemed odd that we didn’t play Xhaka against Ludo, given that he had a domestic ban starting. It would have been a chance to give Santi a rest, and to try Xhaka in his role. And Santi wouldn’t have got injured. This isn’t a moan, just an observation.

  25. One point separating the top 5, and a 3-way tie on points at the top. So here we are again, another October at the top of the table. We’d just thrashed weak European opposition at home — no travel. We meet a team in an early fight against relegation — at home, no travel. I don’t buy “tired” or “leggy.” It’s why we have a squad, with bench that’s better than their first XI.

    All that said, it’s hard to quarrel when we’re top of the table on points. Just feel like a significant opportunity missed.

    BTW, loved the result at the Bridge today. The look on Jose’s face!

    • I don’t know what I enjoyed more, seeing United get beat 4-0 or seeing Mourinho get beat 4-0 🙂

      • United have had this defeat coming. Last week they bored football fans all over the globe with their tactical approach against Liverpool, today showed their obvious attacking limitations.

        Had a feeling City wouldn’t win either. Leicester were the only Champions League team to win this weekend. Juventus, Atletico, Dortmund and others struggled also this weekend. An intense midweek game is not an excuse for a bad result. But it can’t be discounted as a factor.

      • Both! Thanks and may I have some more:)

        What a mauling from a Chel$ki side that looks very different from the team that we ourselves ripped apart a month ago.

        Pogba continues to struggle – as a number 10 he’s maybe a 2 or 3.
        And the big dust-up after the match with Mourinho apparently claiming Conte was rubbing his nose in it. What class!

        I’m really looking forward to spanking them both when we meet.

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