Sunday is Arsenal’s biggest game of the season so far

Psst.. big game on Sunday. Arsenal v. Tottenham. The North London Derby. A match that would be the biggest match of the year even if both teams were mid-table but a match which has taken on new significance since Tottenham finally put together a half decent team.

Over Wenger’s entire tenure, 19 seasons, Tottenham have finished below Arsenal in the League table. Under Wenger Arsenal have won 9 major trophies and 6 Community Shields while Tottenham have won the League Cup, twice. The League Cup, the most junior of trophies. A cup that fans don’t even show up to watch, despite slashed ticket prices. A cup where teams routinely play their youth sides. It’s a mixture of the FA Youth Cup and an adult cup. Maybe the adolescent’s cup?

And like an adolescent, Tottenham have a lot of big ideas about how good they are and where their place is on the League table. Especially so in these last few years when Tottenham finally made it into the Champions League places and nearly pipped Arsenal to second place last season. They are still hanging around this season as well, sitting just three points below Arsenal on the League table. A win for them on Sunday (at 4am???? WTAF?) would take them level to Arsenal in the League table, but a win for Arsenal opens up a 6 point lead for the Gunners.

This promises to be a tasty match.

Under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham deploy a pressing system which seeks to win the ball deep in the opposition half. It’s aggressive football and they often ride on or over the line into foul territory. That raises the temperature of what is already normally a chippy game. Mark Clattenburg is the referee in charge and he’s well known for his permissive tendencies, Arsenal have to be ready for the physical challenge of this match.

But it’s the pressing that should be the biggest tactical concern. Arsenal’s center backs, along with the midfielders, will have to either play a perfect passing game and dazzle fans with elegant triangles and constantly flowing movement, or (more likely) find long outlets and escape routes through tricky feet in midfield, and fleet footed running up front.

Arsene Wenger didn’t deliver any good news for Arsenal fans on the injury front. Arsenal’s fastest forward, Theo Walcott, is “the closest to coming back”, but speaking of the midfield General and all around most important player on the team, Santi Cazorla, Wenger said “he has not practised yet – he will try to go out today and we will see where we go from there. He is a doubt, yes.”

How Arsenal set up in this game is important as well. Wenger has an option to start Giroud up top. Giroud is big and can win a lot of cleared or long passes. And his ability to hold up play and bring late-running teammates (like Özil and Alexis) into the game could be a boon. But Wenger may opt instead for fast, needling players, like a front three of Iwobi, Alexis, and Walcott. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, with the latter being the constant groan of the crowd whenever Mustafi, Cech, or Koscielny hoof the ball out and it goes right back to Spurs.

Arsenal’s midfield has many question marks over it as well. Granit Xhaka is the kind of player whose long passes can pick out an eager runner or can find Giroud up top but Xhaka’s ill discipline could be a factor in this match. Wenger called for him to calm down but Xhaka has no chill. After drawing a yellow card for a foul that I think most Arsenal supporters would consider a red, he then went on to commit three more fouls which each could have been yellow cards. That was against Ludogorets, a match which held little emotional value. Against Tottenham, Xhaka will find himself in the cauldron, and Spurs players (who are the dirtiest players in the League) will be looking to wind him up with little niggling fouls, stamps, pushes, dives, and other shithousery. If he can keep his calm, this could be the match where he rises above his reputation.

Tottenham got a huge boost today with the announcement that Harry Kane is fit. Kane has scored more goals against Arsenal than any other team. He’s also a physical threat, like Giroud, and quite technically adept as well. His screamer from outside the box, on a tight angle from the left last season, was one of the best goals I’ve seen from a Tottenham player, ever. And they have scored some amazing goals against Arsenal. In fact, it usually takes one or two “goals of a lifetime” for them to get the win.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino bemoaned his team’s attitude after a tough loss on Wednesday to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League saying that they “are in a bad moment” and that they “are much better than we played today. Maybe it is taking my players time to manage the Premier League and Champions League – the two toughest competitions in the world. It is good to see how we react.”

Tottenham are in a bad place at the moment, Arsenal are riding high after a good comeback win off the back of a goal of the decade candidate by Mesut Özil over Ludogorets. But don’t count on the psychology of the match to play any part. Both teams will need to give maximum effort and play mistake free football to get the three points.

Arsenal are in a three-way tie for first place in the League. Dropping points here, getting a draw, wouldn’t be the worst result in the world. But this is an early test of Arsenal’s title credentials because a win here and you build a little more padding into the points total. Not to mention the mental advantage of knowing that you beat the best Tottenham team of the last 20 years.

Qq

34 Comments on Sunday is Arsenal’s biggest game of the season so far

  1. Emotional control: that, according to the increasingly tarnished Mourinho, is the first rule of a derby. For that reason, I don’t see Xhaka starting this game. We may see Elneny and Coquelin centrally with Ramsey on the right if Walcott isn’t fit to start. I think the trio of Alexis, Walcott and Iwobi are our best bet up front. Giroud can enter the fray later.

  2. for me, wanyama will be the biggest problem. he’s been a revelation since his move to tottenham. whoever accompanies coquelin will have a handful to contend with in the form of the kenyan. my guess is elneny as he’s the least likely to get caught in possession ahead of ramsey and xhaka. also, i think it might be smart to keep xhaka away from dele alli for now as that’s likely to prove volatile. we’ll see.

    i’m also interested in seeing whether wenger will start alexis. for me, this makes sense as it negates one of tottenham’s greatest strengths, their man-marking.

    lastly, who plays at left back? gibbs doesn’t really need his shoulder to play but he may need about a week off. can arsenal afford to give him sunday off? i’m looking forward to this game.

  3. If Santi is not available, I think Xhaka should start. He is the only other central mid-fielder that can create and still defend. Like Wenger, I believe he will understand the need to control himself. Elneny, works really hard but can’t really drive us forward as he is very conservative with his passes while Ramsey dithers on the ball a lot and although he can create, he is a defensive liability as he likes to over commit offensively.

  4. I think Wenger will be conservative in his midfield choices, don’t be surprised if Cazorla is healthy he goes with Cazorla and Coquelin as the proven pairing. If Cazorla can’t play he’ll match Elneny with Coquelin. I doubt we see Xhaka, last thing he probably wants is to fight fire with fire and risk a red card, although I’d prefer Xhaka over Coquelin to start let’s be expansive, we’re at home and their defense is unsettled. I have a real fear Wenger loves Ramsey so much he may try and shoehorn him in next to Coquelin, but that’s a bad pairing.

    • we will be in serious trouble if Ramsey starts at all. him playing on the right could be just as bad as him being in the center, as it severely slows us down. I agree with you about Wenger’s insane love for Ramsey, which is why I hope Theo’s fit (probably the only other player in the squad he loves as much), since I have a bad feeling he might go for Ramsey over the Ox, which I think would be a mistake.

  5. I also hope he starts Alexis up top instead of starting Giroud and moving Alexis to the left at the expense of Iwobi (his form has dipped a little, but he’s still had a great season and he offers us so much from that left side). If Theo’s out, and Arsene wants to have Giroud on the pitch so we can beat the trap by playing the ball long, one thought would be playing Alexis on the right (he’s better there than on the left, imo), Giroud up top, and Iwobi on the left. With Alexis and Ozil we’d still have the pace to get in behind, but less so than in recent weeks. Personally, I’d keep Giroud as an impact sub from the bench.

  6. In my opinion, Coqneny is the best option in midfield. We really need to be conservative for this one, Tottenham press very well, so any turnover will be punished. Elneny shows up very well for the ball, and he has that discipline, remember how well they worked together at White Hart last season, they controlled the midfield so well, we even took the lead, until that moment of madness from Coquelin. In as much as we need to win the game to keep pace with the top teams, I think first of all we mustn’t lose, for all the psychological reasons. Time enough to catch up. Keeping the ball very well in the middle is vital and then leaving it up to Özil or Alexis to pull out something special from their locker, which we all know too well that they are capable of.

  7. This Sunday, form will go out the window. Forget that they are in a “bad moment” or we are still riding high from Ozil’s goal, none of that will matter. It will come down to who wants the game more and who has done their homework for this game.

    The mid-field is a concern for me. If Cazorla in fit enough to start (unlikely), then the mid-field pairing will rightly be Carorla – Coquelin. I don’t think we have seen a better pairing in our squad yet. In all likelihood, Cazorla won’t be starting – in that case the first person I would pick is someone who has a calm presence in the middle and that’s Elneny. The question then becomes, who partners him? Coquelin is the more conservative choice and he is quite instrumental in winning the ball back early and preventing potential counter attacks so I think he gets the nod but I have to admit Xhaka is tempting because he is a bit of a X-Factor. He has the quality to play a killer pass and is better than Coquelin when he is on the ball. However Tottenham has plenty of speed on their side and I think the risk of sacrificing speed in MF by playing Elneny and Xhaka is too great. I would take the conservative route and play Elneny and Coq. Also, I think Elneny’s forward play has improved over the last couple of weeks. I would like him to see him rewarded for that.

    The ”front four” should be the same as Chelsea if Theo can start. I think starting Ramsey opposite Iwobi if Theo doesn’t start could be disastrous. I would rather see Ox, despite his drawbacks. At least he will stay on the right. The last thing we need is two inverted winger types running into Ozil’s space. If Wenger insists on starting Ramsey on the right, which I think there is a strong chance of happening, then I think Iwobi will need to be benched, with Alexis moved to the left and Giroud starting as CF – but that’s shoe-horning the team to fit Ramsey in the starting XI and I would prefer we don’t do that.

  8. Well, at least we’ll have one last North London Derby before the End-Times descend upon us all on Tuesday.

  9. The markets are already down because of uncertainty as the polls have gotten tighter.

    If we win on Sunday I think America will make the sane if not ideal choice on Tuesday. If Spurs win…y’all are welcome to come to Canada.

    No way Cazorla is fit. We will not see him until December as the interlull is next week.

    My concern too is their press if we try and rip into them early and often. Our 4-2-3-1 against their 4-2-3-1. A congested midfield full of bodies throwing themselves at each other. Xhaka. Will he be more of an asset than a liability?

    Our midfield picked up 3 yellows in Bulgaria and this match will be even more physical.

    If we can keep our cool, stay disciplined, etc especially our rear guard I can’t see us dropping 3 points. We badly need Ballerin and Koscienly to have a great game. And if #11 can continue with a few magic moments…turning those clocks back Sunday night won’t make Monday morning nearly as depressing.

  10. Perplexed as always by the Ramsey bashing. Two games back from a long injury break, two assists.

    Arsene’s “insane love” is just silly talk. Ramsey will start tomorrow, as he’s nailed on in our XI. Cool-headed goal threat.

    Not a popular view but based on how well Ramsey worked with Arteta (who’s similar to Xhaka in being a passing rather than tackling DM), I think that Ramsey and Xhaka will become the best partnership as Santi ages and Xhaka acclimatises. In any case, the notion of a pure ball-winner is regularly oversold. You have to play too. Players like Kante are constantly redefining the role, and Coquelin is too limited to lock down a role to himself, and have Elneny, Santi and Ramsey be AN Other.

    But Ramsey is an ever-present, and will play, even if out of position.

    Ramsey doesn’t gel well with Coquelin, so in Walcott’s absence I’d continue to play him wide right, Alexis left, and Giroud on top. You simply do not leave Giroud in the bench in Walcott’s absence, especially after getting 3 in 2 games. That’d send a terrible signal to him, and Wenger isn’t going to do that.

    Santi if fit will come in for Elneny, if not, Elneny starts and Santi comes off the bench. Elneny showed with his assist for Ozil’s wonder goal, that he can see killer forward pass too.

    • “He’s nailed on in our 11”. Either you mean he deserves to be, or you mean Arsene always picks him to start whether he deserves to or not. If the latter, then talk of Arsene’s insane love for him is not “crazy talk” (hyperbole maybe). If the former, that is, if YOU think he should be starting pretty much any time he’s fit, then WHY??? What has he done in the last, say, 12 months (we could go even further back to make the point) to deserve automatic starter status??? He’s a cool headed goal threat apparently…ok, so that trumps any other criticisms of his game? Or the fact that we’ve been scoring plenty of goals without him (and playing free flowing football)? Or the fact that he hasn’t actually scored that many goals in the last year or so, even when fit (how many goals do you have to score to count as a goal threat, anyway)?
      Look, I like Ramsey. What I object to is the suggestion that he should always start, regardless of form, fitness, the balance of the team (everyone should admit that we look very, very narrow when he start on the right and constantly wanders inside, especially with a non-mobile Giroud up top), his lack of chemistry with other important players who have been playing well (like Coquelin), and the form of the players who have been playing in his absence. THAT sends a “terrible signal” to the rest of the squad!
      Ramsey at his best is a very good player, but he hasn’t been at his best, for a consistent period of time, since the 2013-14 season. No doubt there have been extenuating circumstances: injuries, and being asked to play in a non-ideal position. But he got a chance to play through the middle as a box to box midfielder (a “number 8” whatever you want to call it) last year when Santi got injured, and he was pretty poor. His ball control and passing, probably the most important attributes for a centre mid in a top side, were very labored and sloppy. That combined with his positional indiscipline meant we looked really disjointed in the middle of the park, something you don’t often associate with a Wenger side, and our form suffered as a result. Obviously our slump in form from the middle of the season onwards can’t all be laid at Ramsey’s feet (far from it!), but for a supposedly “big” player in our side, who’s talked constantly about wanting to play through the middle, to then get his chance and then perform so underwhelmingly is pretty damning. Of course I want him to do well, I think he might make a good partnership with Xhaka, etc, etc. I just think the blind worship of him is unjustified and unhelpful. You can disagree with what I’ve said, but I’m making arguments, not wild assertions.
      And your suggestion that both Ramsey and Giroud should start on Sunday basically means you think we should go back to playing the way we’ve done before this season (no Iwobi, no Ox (as the best approximation of Theo on the right), and Alexis back on the left instead of up top), whereas many fans and commentators, myself included, feel that we’ve been playing some of our best football in ages this season.

    • it’s not that ramsey doesn’t gel well with coquelin. ramsey doesn’t seem to gel well with any of arsenal’s midfielders. in the ’13-’14 season, ramsey looked better than he actually is because he had the experience and maturity of arteta and mertesacker to plug the gaps ramsey left with his reckless forward runs. xhaka is still a youngster and lacks the judgement that arteta had. as for that run when ramsey scored a lot of goals, they say that form is temporary. you can’t make sound decisions based on form from 3 years ago. ramsey’s never come close to replicating that goal return before or since.

      you have to respect the fact that this team has gone on a great, unbeaten run and hasn’t missed ramsey since his injury. you also have to respect that in the past three season, every time ramsey was a regular in the center of arsenal’s midfield, arsenal failed to win more games than they won. there’s no legitimate argument that can be made to support his immediate re-introduction into the side.

      while it’s nice that he has two assists since he’s come back, you have to respect the level of the opposition. i didn’t even know who ludogorets was before this season and sunderland are off to the worst start in bpl history. tottenham are not ludogorets or sunderland. ironically, i believe that if ramsey comes on late and the game is tight, he might get a game winner. we’ll see.

    • I like Ramsey as a player but he’s not even close to an “ever present.” Now that Özil seems to have acquired a taste for goals, Ramsey’s one unique quality is no longer unique. For me, the nailed on starters for us are Sanchez, Özil, Cazorla, Koz, Cech, and Bellerin. Close to that status but feeling the heat of competition are Nacho, Walcott, Iwobi, and Coq. Ramsey is part of a large group of players like Xhaka, Ox, Perez, Giroud, etc who are bringing the heat of competition and have to prove they’re worthy of playing more. It’s not like we’ve been playing poorly without Aaron.

    • You don’t have to to believe that he’s an ever-present, Tee. The proof is in the team sheet of recent seasons! 😀 I’m not sure about today because he’s still not back up to speed and a high energy north London Derby may be a game too soon, but when fully fit, he plays.

      There are some aspects of Arsene’s regime that I’m unhappy with, but, sorry chaps, I’m going put his knowledge of his players ahead you, Tee, joshuad and PFo. Not that I’m different from you. I don’t think that Oxlade-Chamberlain is Arsenal quality, but Wenger’s perseverance yielded some good returns from him in recent games.

      However I don’t know where we get off with comments like he “doesn’t seem to gel well with any of arsenal’s midfielders.” That is plainly untrue.

      • There’s a difference between an ever present and a current nailed on starter. Agreed, Ramsey has been, to use your term, a nailed on starter for a few seasons. Times change, personnel change, tactics change. Gibbs was a nailed on starter for awhile, until he wasn’t. Giroud has been an ever present starter for the past three seasons but I don’t think that’s true anymore. Wilshere was always afforded an easy route back into the starting lineup on his many injury returns but now is on loan. And while I think Ramsey has much promise as a marauding, forward thinking #8, Cazorla and Özil are the present incumbents in his two best positions. Probably the best chance he has of nailing down a starting position this year is taking Iwobi’s place as the wide auxiliary playmaker.

      • Whatever, wherever. He’s fully fit, he plays, the record shows. And yes, much as I love Iwobi and think he’s a very good young player, I’d play Aaron ahead of him. We’ve played right footers on the left effectively, Nasri being a recent example.

        Once Xhaka acclimatises and get better at protecting the ball, I see Ramsey replacing the marvellous but ageing Cazorla, who is there party to Coquelin’s minder, as Arsene himself admitted. Coq has responded well to the competition (note to Debuchy), but good as he is in his primary role, he’s limited in others, notably transitioning from D to A.

        • Iwobi has a better first touch, is better at keeping hold of the ball in tight situations in the final third (indeed, all over the pitch), has more pace without being an outright speedster, is much better at receiving the ball on the half-turn (a great attribute for any attacking midfielder), and has a better sense of timing when it comes to running with the ball while under pressure and knowing when to hold onto it versus when to release it to a teammate. For all those reasons and more, replacing him with a slowish right-footed central midfielder who doesn’t like playing on the flanks, simply to shoehorn said midfielder into the starting 11, makes no sense (and this is true even if Iwobi’s form begins to dip, which wouldn’t be a surprise for a young player).

          Your loyalty to Ramsey is not justified by the evidence. I do hope he eventually finds his best form back in the center, mind, but only if Santi’s powers really are on the wane, and I see no evidence of that just yet.

  11. I think Elneny will start start because he’s in the ascendancy for wise. He’ll be allowed to push up and coq will be tasked with protecting the centre backs. That is different to how Wenger has been working the team this season but it’s what makes sense to me. Especially without cazorla.

      • Well Xhaka starts. Be interesting to see who the deeper of coq and him are today.

        Guess I’ll hold off getting my coaching badges. Walcott being for is huge. Strong lineup, Giroud is a real option off the bench.

  12. Great result for middlesbrough, and us today. I checked after we drew with them, and while they are terrible at home, they are a decent team when playing away, I guess because they’re not expected to attack and a draw is generally a good result for them.

    I might be wrong but I don’t feel like Mark C is a terrible ref. I’m sure he can be bad but I don’t get the same sinking feeling I get when I see his name as when I see Deans name or Web. Hope he has a good game.

    • I agree about Clattenberg. He’s a bit full of himself (not the only one), and can be somewhat erratic in big games, but he tends to get more calls right than wrong, I think. I don’t recall him being especially permissive, but then I think virtually all the refs in England are too permissive. I think Oliver is the best ref right now, but we can’t have him every week. As long as it’s not Mike Dean!!!!!
      The real problem is that none of the refs (and even less so the commentators!) seem to have grasped the idea that Tottenham’s pressing-to-the-point-that-if-we-don’t-get-the-ball-we’ll-foul-you-and-stop-any-counterattack is a form of team-wide, intentional, coordinated, tactical fouling, and as such is cheating. They deserve far, far more yellow cards than they get (the “it was only my first foul ref” is a ridiculous defense when the foul was obviously cynical and/or reckless and when your teammates have been committing similar fouls all over the pitch), and even when they get some yellows, refs rarely have the balls to administer two yellows for two such tactical fouls, or when they do it’s inconsistent and so can’t be counted on (inevitably, the one time during a game a ref decides to interpret the rules strictly is bound to be when Koscielny or Coquelin happens to commit a second slightly mistimed tackle).

  13. Looks like Chel$ki has their mojo back in a big way. So unfortunate that Conte came to Stamford Bridge but very fortunate that we caught them in early in the season.The rematch at their place is going to be a b&$ch.

    As for the Tiny Tots, NO WAY we drop three points tomorrow. We are moving in opposite direction right now and we WILL keep that momentum going.

  14. Play whoever is match fit, and that means no aaron and no santi. Would love it if they started a half fit kane

  15. Disheartening performance all around. Toothless up front, mid field didn’t really work and shaky in defense. Still, should have won but could have lost. It’s worrying that that without Cazorla we can’t seem to be playing our game and that affects us in all areas of the pitch.

  16. A point is about par for these games, and that was the result I expected. We had better chances and should maybe have won it, but I’m not disappointed.

    Sanchez and Ozil were effectively nullified, and apart from his free kick that led to the goal, Mesut probably hasn’t had a worse game this season. Theo was unlucky. What a strike. Confidence is surging through him.

    Iwobi needs to give us some productivity frommthe left wing or his place could be contention. No goals for the season yet. Not good enough for an attacking player. Even Ox has a few. And speaking of Ox, that’s what he looked like in his brief appearance.

    Koscielny was solid, unlucky with the both the penalty and the yellow card, as he got the ball on both occasions. Mustafi a little nervy, Bellerin and Monreal turn in good shifts.

    Coq was unlucky to be withdrawn, but Xhaka went onto the play better without him, and was one of our more effective performers on the day.

    As for Spurs, they are a very good possession team and very sound defensively. Rose, Walker, Dembele and Wanyama were very good, and Vertongen should have conceded at least one penalty for some of the most blatant shirt-tugging you will see. Consistency please, referees.

    • It’s not as if they made a huge deal before the season began about how shirt pulling in the penalty area was going to actually be cracked down on under new rules or anything.

    • I didn’t think Mesut had a bad game at all. We were very disjointed in attack in general, but of our front four I’d say he was probably the best (not a huge compliment today). We should have won, simply because their goal was so, so preventable (even setting aside the fact that the penalty was wrong/soft). But we didn’t do nearly enough in response to the adversity of going the goal down.
      Wenger typically gets criticized (including by me) for only ever making late/reactive substitutions, but I actually think his three early substitutions today kinda backfired and hurt what little rhythm we had. I think bringing on Giroud for one of Iwobi or Walcott with 20 minutes to go would have made sense, but otherwise I would have kept it as is (or rather, I almost certainly would have made the subs, but that would have been a mistake–that’s why I’m not a high paid manager).

  17. Arsenal tried to force the issue and were guilty of being too eager on a number of occasions. More composure would have helped create higher quality chances. Although we didn’t achieve our objective, I’m heartened by the fact that Xhaka played the whole game without losing his rag. The hypothesized perfect pair of Xhaka-Ramsey could be tried out in the EFL cup tie with Southampton. It could be a potential solution in games where we need to be more offensive in order to get a positive result. Food for thought for Wenger: the Middlesbrough game appears to have given the rest of the EPL a template for nullifying our fluid front three. Indeed, even in the 3-0 Chelsea win, we didn’t score in the second half once they switched to a three man defence. We’ve lost seven points at home already this season. As things stand, our away form is keeping us in the title race. We must find a way to break through massed ranks at the Emirates if we want to realistically challenge for the title.

    • I agree about the food for thought, except that our not scoring in the second half half against Chelsea had NOTHING to do with them switching to a back three and everything to do with our missing several decent chances and our not needing to score any more.

  18. Until we stop making fairly basic defensive errors, it’s going to be difficult to win things. When Dembele picks up the ball, he’s 10 yards inside our half and not really looking to drive forward, despite there being a huge amount of space in front of him. Not sure where Xhaka was since that was his side but Coq takes a very poor angle to Dembele, choosing to run straight at him and engage from the side rather than running into the gap to get goal side of Dembele before pressuring him. Dembele takes the invitation, shrugs off Coq because he’s a powerful dribbler and good at that, and drives into our penalty area. It’s one thing to give up a penalty to a highly skilled run which beats two or three defenders who are in good position but it’s quite another to open the door and invite a player into your penalty area. I thought we started both halves with surprisingly little concentration and intensity and paid for it.

    As for our attack, we carved out the two best chances of the game which unfortunately fell to Iwobi and Bellerin, Theo almost got lucky with a spectacular long distance strike which was struck so hard that the rebound gave Özil no time to try to put the ball back into an empty net. And Özil should be given an assist for the goal. He put the ball into an area where any touch was more difficult to miss the goal and the fact it was a spurs player who turned it in despite trying not to only speaks to the quality of the delivery. We didn’t look toothless, we looked like we were playing against the best defensive team in the BPL.

    I’m frankly disappointed at the result. We had a shaky first 15 or so minutes but we ended the half in the ascendancy with a lead. But once we gave up that soft goal, the game was always going to be on a knife edge.

    • Completely agree with everything you wrote, especially giving up that silly, silly goal at a terrible time. It’s mental. Wenger can only do so much; at some point the players have to stand up and take responsibility for these kinds of mistakes and sluggish starts.

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