Like an Ox in a China shop

By Jonathan Blaustein

My kids asked me to watch “Minions” with them a month or so ago. I quickly remembered the opening montage, as I must have seen it before, so I begged off a repeat engagement.

But before I did, I giggled at the site of the yellow dudes inadvertently killing off Dracula. They didn’t mean to, as he was their boss. Through simple hijinks, though, the evil blood-sucker was turned to dust.

With the nastiest monsters, it’s best to be perfectly sure they’re dead before you dance on their graves. “Fatal Attraction,” and many a movie before and since, has proven the error in premature relaxation.

As such, I’m not yet ready to declare the end of Jose Mourinho. Right now, as I type this, Manchesters United and City have just begun the 2nd half of a very boring EFL Cup game.

It’s so boring, in fact, that I sat in front of the TV writing emails. I knew that by the tone of the announcer’s voices, I’d be clued in to the good stuff. When their voices rise, I thought, I’ll look up from the screen.

It never happened. (Other than an Ihenacho miss in the first minute.)

The funniest thing of all? Jose Mourinho is actually trying to win the game. Guardiola ran out some second stringers and kids, but not Jose.

He’s fallen so far, so fast, that he actually had to field his first team regulars for the EFL Cup. This not 24 hours after Arsene Wenger ran out Ashley Maitland-Niles as the starting DM against Reading.

Fuck Boy George, Jose Mourinho is the real karma chameleon. Since gloating and trolling during Chelsea’s triumphant 2014–15 campaign, the Special One has seemingly gotten what he deserves.

But it’s not over yet. (And United went on to win the EFL Derby.)

That said, we have seen enough of the 16’–17’ season to make some realistic judgements. Pep needs at least another year of buying before his City becomes unstoppable. We’re lucky we played Chelsea when we did, because Conte has since unearthed a new formation, with some new players, (Victor Moses) while also rejuvenating the most important one. (Eden Hazard)

Tottenham get by on their press, and have seemingly discovered a plan B behind Harry Kane. But they are certainly less talented than Arsenal.

Liverpool too are system-based. Coutinho is a star, for sure, but how many of their starting 11 would make Arsenal’s first team? I could certainly see Coutinho and Mane starting on the wings, but that’s about it. (And not over Walcott on current form.)

And as for Arsenal? In particular, what have we learned over the last run of 4 games?

Well, first off, we would have likely lost or tied the Swansea game last year, and probably lost against Middlesbrough. Don’t you remember Bafetimbi Gomis snatch and grabbing a goal that barely crossed the line?

Not this time.

It might have been a bit dodgy there at the end of the Swansea match, but Arsenal gutted out a win. These little tests of mental strength are reassuring, even though we won’t know answers to the biggest questions until early January.

What else?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is serious about taking Alex Iwobi’s starting spot. Or Theo Walcott’s. The dude means business.

AOC really put it together with the goals against Ludogorets and Reading. Weak competition, yes, but it wasn’t just the scoring. I know he had at least one assist, but the through balls? There had to be 3 or more in a couple of matches.

Adding that in, on top of his 5-tool package, means he might not have a realistic ceiling. If… you know the rest. If… he can stay healthy. Let’s make that an acronym, b/c it’s going to come up again. IHCSH

Theo Walcott, another winger, also has come to play. None of us saw this coming. We all watched him jump out of that tackle with Younes Kaboul. We all thought he was done.

It’s not uncommon for players to need more than a season to truly recover from an ACL tear. He built up a body that’s now compact, with a low center of gravity, rather than being a short flamingo in a red-and-white shirt.

Seeing him flourish like this is a crazy story. Can he keep it up? IHCSH. Certainly he learned to be more clinical in his striker run, but in this fluid line-up, he’s in a striker’s position half the time anyway.

Alexis Sanchez has begun to play like Chile-Alexis, now that AW has liberated him from the wing. The dude who helped blow up Mexico 7–0 this summer was a tornado. Pressing, playmaking, scoring, more pressing. He and his Chile teammates were simply everywhere, overwhelming the Mexicans with power, desire, speed and skill.

And his playmaking has allowed Ozil to become the goal-scorer Wenger hinted at last year. In the first two weeks of the season, as I watched Kevin de Bruyne score with cold-hearted precision, I thought he might be the best #10 because Ozil doesn’t score like that.

Now he does. Which means he’s a freakishly dangerous footballer at the moment.

The hat-trick against Ludogorets was really amazing. I remember Cazorla had one that good a few years ago, but this was a hell of a performance. The guy has a nose for it now. Just how good is Mesut Ozil? A super-duper star? Could he score 20 goals in a season? IHCSH.

Pay him and Alexis as much as they ask for. And do it quickly. Because I don’t care what the Ballon d’Or people say. I think Alexis and Ozil are both among the 10 best players in the world right now.

Please discuss.

JB

18 Comments on Like an Ox in a China shop

  1. Yes. Show them the money so they can sign da ting. Also give Iwobi and Hector a raise.

    Hey memba when we had a squad full of players that we needed to unload? Yeah memba?
    And memba when we all thought Theo was done? I memba!

  2. Seriously. Other than Henry and Bergkamp there have never been two players that should be given ALL THE MONEY more than those two.

  3. So, here’s the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or:

    Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli/Juventus), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain/Manchester United), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Neymar (Barcelona), Dimitri Payet (West Ham), Pepe (Real Madrid), Paul Pogba (Juventus/Manchester United), Rui Patricio (Sporting), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich)

    Are Ozil and Sanchez top 10? Let’s start by eliminating the keepers and defenders because as good as they are, nobody really cares when talking about a top 10 list anyway. After that, there is a lower tier in this list that doesn’t quite yet belong but had good years so somehow they made it (Vardy, Mahrez, Payet). They are exceptional players, but need another year at least to prove they are the real deal. You then have players who are too old or too young, but play on teams that need at least a nominee, so they made it (Ibra, Dybala). Then players who are really good, but there isn’t really a comparison when I’d say are Ozil or Sanchez better (Koke, Iniesta (because of age and injury issues), Higuain (exceptional sometimes, but mostly fat), Pogba, Kroos, Modric).

    That leaves:
    Aguero, Aubameyang, Bale, Ronaldo, De Bruyne, Griezmann, Lewandowski, Messi , Muller, Neymar, Suarez, Vidal

    That’s 12 names. I think Vidal is the weakest on this list and I’d take the Arsenal boys over him, but past that, we are talking the cream of the crop. For me, I think both are better than Aubameyang and maybe Muller. But past that I think it’s even at best. I evaluate this based on a “if you offered me a straight trade of player X for Sanchez or Ozil, would I take it?” De Bruyne I’d take because is so young, Aguero and Lewa I’d take because they are so clinical, Bale I’d take because he’s a physical freak, Messi, Griezmann, Ronaldo, Suarez, and Neymar are no-brainers. So that leaves Ozil and Sanchez somewhere between the 9th and 13th best players in the world along with Aubameyang and Muller for me.

    • Ballon D’or. Isn’t that the competition that Ronaldo and Messi take turns winning? Ergo, it really doesn’t matter who else is on the list. Waste of time. Maybe give it a reboot once those two retire.

    • I feel like they only give the award to someone who has won trophy which is why Vardy is on that list and not Ozil or Sanchez. I bet Ronaldo wins it again this year despite him not doing anything in the CL final or not even playing in the Euro finals.

      • The very fact that Ronaldo is favorite to win this award this year demonstrates that it is meaningless. Has Ronaldo been the best player in the world this year? Obviously, obviously not. Clearly, that should be the end of the conversation right there, but since people seem to think, quite bizarrely, that it matters that he won two big trophies this year (on that criterion, why not Pepe???), let’s look at this reason in more detail.
        Has he even been the undisputed most valuable (as opposed to best/most talented/most egotistical/most tanned) player in the best team(s) in the world this year? No rational person thinks Portugal is the best international team in the world, or even played the best this year, and few would claim that RM is clearly better than, say, another 4-6 elite clubs. But even if we assume that Portugal and Real were deserving winners of the big trophies they won (and Madrid didn’t win La Liga, arguably a much better measure of consistent excellence over a season), Ronaldo was arguably not the (or even a) decisive factor in them winning most of the games that led to their respective EC and CL wins. Portugal’s win was down to a huge slice of luck and a mostly excellent team defense, while Modric, Kroos, Ramos, Pepe, and Bale were arguably as influential in Madrid’s cup run as “CR7” (vomit).
        The inane hype around the Ballon d’Or nicely sums up much that is wrong with current footballing culture (that and Mino Raiola).

        • I think you guys missed the point of my comment. The Ballon d’Or is dumb for all the reasons you specified. My comment was meant to see if I agreed with Tim’s assertion that Alexis and Ozil are in the top 10 best players in the world right now.

          • Yeah, I understood your original comment. Just wanted to also have a ballon d’or rant of my own.
            As for your rating of the top players, I mostly agree, though I think you underrate Modric and Iniesta (granting the latter is getting old), who are both obviously better than Vidal and Muller, and probably a few others on that top ten list. As for swapping Ozil or Sanchez, I don’t think Griezmann is a no brainer at all (maybe would for Sanchez, probably wouldn’t for Ozil), as I think he’s definitely overrated. You can’t argue with his goals, but I think people have gone weirdly over-the-top in praising him (though he would fit in really nicely at Arsenal, mind). And Bale may be a physical freak, but he’s also completely without a footballing brain, so no thank you. Aubameyang I’d probably swap for Sanchez, but only because it would be so useful to have a player of his quality and pace in the CF position, the closest thing to Henry that we’ve had since he left. And Aguero is a tough one, simply because of his injury problems.

    • I agree that De Bruyne is a tossup. But in general, I concur with your list. If we slotted them in at 9 and 10, I wouldn’t quibble.

  4. Changing the subject slightly”

    Correct me if I am wrong but;

    Arsene is saying that 86 points will win it. So, given we have 20 points needing another 66 with 29 games to go: for example we need to

    Win 21, Draw 3 and lose 5.
    OR Win 19, draw 9 and lose 1
    OR Win 22 and lose 7

    It turns out that these are the only options to get a further 66 points. What do you think?

    So what he is saying is we can lose away to Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Man U and Citeh and providing we only draw three other games we will win the league.

    What do you think?

    • I think that’s a dangerous attitude. It takes the emphasis from performing well in every match and improving collectively and as individuals throughout a season and instead puts it on achieving the bare minimum and thinking about where we can take shortcuts. We have to approach each match with the attitude that we will try our damndest to win it regardless of who is in our lineup and who is in theirs. Anything less leads to complacency and that will show in the performances and, eventually, the final points tally.

  5. Nice article. My one addition to what you have to say is to focus on how individual performances are in the context of a greater whole: a living, breathing, huffing, puffing, sprinting, pressing, half-space exploiting biomass of humans who are really good at manipulating a round bouncy object with their feet.

    Theo has found his feet in large part due to the team structure that allows him to flourish. With Alexis vacating space in the front, Theo has found room to run. With Alexis, Iwobi, Cazorla and Ozil providing passes, he has found a steady source of ammunition. With Bellerin, he has a perfect foil for his runs to pull defenders away in crucial moments. All of this is conspiring with Theo’s newly found defensive work ethic to produce a player who is unrecognizably different from past seasons. IHCSH.

    Ozil, too, is finding space in the vacuum left by Alexis’ false 9 tendencies. Last season, primarily with the ball in wide corridors behind the space occupying Giroud, he picked crosses with surgical precision to notch an absurd assist tally. This year, he is running into spaces and turning goalscorer, often on the end of nominal CF Sanchez’s final ball. How many players in world football can provide on such a high level but then also become a consistent scorer of goals in an entirely different system the next season? Ozil is a gem.

    With that background, AOC’s issue then is quite clearly that he hasn’t learned to become part of Arsene’s football organism. His spectacular dribbles and powerful shots may catch the eye but his consistent lack of integration in the first XI is down to his inability to adjust to and sync with his attacking team mates (and of course injuries). By contrast, Iwobi understood how to play with Ozil and Sanchez from day one and has consequently become a key “organ” in the organism that is our front four. AOC showed signs of improved combination play vs. Reading, but his goals were still individual efforts and much tougher tests of his adaptability await.

  6. The Ballon d’Or belongs to Leonel Messi by default barring injury or a sustained poor run of form until his retirement and so it should be for one of history’s greatest players. He is a freak.

    Alexis and Mesut definitely have their freakishness too and although neither will win the big individual prize anytime soon Arsenal should and must do what is needed to secure their services into 2020.

    • Alexis and Ozil could be in with a shout of the prize in 2017 (Messi and Ronaldo really aren’t getting any younger and arguably their powers are fading) IF we win the PL and/or CL and they are consistently excellent throughout the whole campaign. I think they’re both good enough.

  7. Head banga, hit me
    Hit me, hit me
    Gimme some new s$&t, yeah
    MESSI be puttin’ it down
    I’m the hottest ’round
    I told y’all mother-ooh
    Y’all can’t stop me now
    Listen to me now
    I’m lasting twenty rounds
    And if you want me then come and get me now
    Is you with me now?
    Then biggie-biggie-bounce
    I know you dig the way I sw-sw-switch my style
    People sing around
    Now people gather ’round
    Now people jump around
    Go, get ur freak on

    • “They sayin i’m the best
      I’m like you so right
      Still ain’t got enough shine to last the whole night…
      Doomsday comin start investing in a few guns
      New gats booby traps and bazooka straps
      Better play your cards right
      No booster packs
      E’rbody claims they used to rap
      But these ain’t even punch lines no more
      I’m abusing tracks
      Leaving instrumentals blue n black
      I’m in Marty Mcfly mode
      So tell em that the future’s back
      Ridin on hover boards
      Wiping out motherboards
      Stopped spitting fire cause my mothafukin lung is scorched
      King Arthur when he swung his sword
      Or king author
      I ain’t even used a pen in like a month or four”

      Capital steez with survival tactics, best verse of 2012 and now it applies to the gunners.

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