Arsenal earn a lucky point away at Man U

Arsenal snatched a late goal to take a point at Old Trafford and considering the fact that I expected Arsenal to lose, I should be happy with a point, but I’m not. Despite my mental preparations, expecting Arsenal to lose, I guess I didn’t prepare for the idea that Man U would control the pace of the game so thoroughly and that it would take a late bit of luck for Arsenal to win a point. And so, I have to admit that this match was disappointing.

What I’m used to seeing is the opposite: Arsenal control the match with slick passing and great movement; Arsenal create a ton of good chances; Arsenal are frustrated by a number of great saves by the opposition keeper; in the end, Arsenal drop points when a single lapse in concentration creates the opposition’s only shot on goal and they score.

In this match we saw Man U dominating the game from stem to stern, forcing Cech to make a number of good saves, and Arsenal snatching a draw in the 89th minute with their only shot on goal. It should be a wake-up call. This is the worst United team I’ve seen in years. They were bandaged and injured and their best players had just returned from international duty just like ours. And yet, they were the ones able to dictate the play of the game for 80 plus minutes. If you want to win, you have to control the game. Arsenal didn’t control the game.

In the first half, Man U dictated the style of play by sitting deep. Sitting nine men in their own half, they denied Arsenal space, specifically space between the lines, where Arsenal’s creative players (Ozil and Alexis) like to operate. As a result, Arsenal “lacked penetration” as Wenger said after the match and only had one good shot, Alexis’ header that went wide of the mark from inside the 18 yard box.

In the second half, Man U came out of their own half and attacked Arsenal. They dominated possession and eventually scored when Arsenal went to sleep and let Juan Mata get the best look of the game. Mata waltzed in through Arsenal’s buttery midfield, slashed at the ball, and Cech had no chance.

The goal woke Wenger and he made some key changes. The first was subbing off Elneny. I don’t understand why people like Elneny. I get that he passes and runs. I know that is an underrated talent in a player. But he lacks any creative vision. And worse, I’ve said this numerous times and I’m going to keep saying it, his defense is soft: he lets people ghost past him too easily; he often seems out of position; he’s a ball watcher; and he doesn’t tackle. The Mata goal wasn’t entirely his fault but he was ball watching on the throw in and dribble, he was out of position, then he has a look back at Mata, and doesn’t bust his lungs to get to Mata.

elneny

Denilson, for the supporters who have only been around the last five or six years, was an Arsenal midfielder who had superb passing skills and sublime touch. He was also an ever present runner and formed an irrepressible partnership in midfield with Cesc Fabregas. The knock on Denilson was that he would switch off defensively. He was a good tackler, read the game well, and led Arsenal in tackles, interceptions, and passing, but he would switch off. And one time, back when Wayne Rooney was still a good footballer*, Denilson just let Rooney run past him. Rooney went on to score. Man U won the game. After that match Denilson was dropped and sent to gulag. I’ve now watched him for almost a year and I think Elneny is worse than Denilson.

I know that’s going to be an unpopular opinion and I’m absolutely not blaming him entirely for Mata’s goal. I’m saying his overall game looks timid, he doesn’t tackle, he doesn’t cover space well, he’s rarely aware of a goal threat, his touch is mediocre, he doesn’t create, he folds under the slightest pressure, and he’s often in the midfield when the opposition just slice right through us like hot butter (Liverpool and Man U). He should not be starting any games for Arsenal, much less big games.

And what makes Elneny’s start in this game even more baffling is that Wenger pushed Ramsey wide and had Xhaka on the bench. After the match, Wenger said “I knew it would be a bit more of a physical battle so I chose players who have experience and fight.” Which is a weird thing to say when you consider the fact that Elneny is a soft defender and Ramsey often abandons his defensive duties to play as a forward. It’s even weirder when you consider the fact that Xhaka is Arsenal’s most combative player.

But that was the team Wenger selected and it didn’t work. Fortunately, he had players on the bench who could change the game.

Xhaka, Giroud, and Oxlade-Chamberlain were brought on and it’s no coincidence that Arsenal scored a goal. Ox made a nice dribble, put in a great cross, and Giroud did what Giroud does, headed the ball in the back of the net.

I can’t be happy with the fact that Arsenal were dominated, but I can be happy that we have the depth to bring on three great players and get a result if needed.

Credit to Mustafi for winning nearly every one of his aerial duels. I’ve said that Mustafi is weak in the air a number of times and he was challenged yesterday and showed he can do it. He needs a lot more than one match to convince but it’s a good start. Credit also to Coquelin who reprised his role as “the Policeman”, patrolling Arsenal’s midfield and snuffing out Man U attacks with perfectly timed tackles. Without him in midfield, I fear we would have been overrun on numerous occasions.

And finally, Wenger has to find a way to rest Alexis. Instead of making runs in dangerous areas he resorted to dropping and creating for others. There were no others to create for. So, Arsenal couldn’t create. I suspect his play yesterday was a result of fatigue. When he’s fit, he closes people down, he makes runs off the ball, and he creates. Yesterday he was only one of three.

It’s not a disastrous result but it does look like Arsenal have a lot of work to do and need to get a number of players fit (Cazorla was greatly missed). Arsenal are only three points from the top of the table, which is a great position, but they are also only 1 point from 5th place behind Tottenham.

Qq

*Ask your grandparents about Wayne Rooney and Arsenal’s 50th game

36 comments

  1. I feel you’re consistently too hard on Elneny. Every good squad has and needs to have one or two “fillers”. These are technically good and team-oriented squad players who have a realistic idea of their place in the scheme of things but always contribute to the best of their abiity to the team’s cause. Denilson apart, we’ve had players like that before: Grimandi readily comes to mind. Chelsea have used John Mikel Obi for that purpose for years and it didn’t stop them from winning trophies. Ditto Darren Fletcher at Man United. These are basically continuity players. They keep the game ticking and are best for holding on to (rather than actively making)results. They have their uses. Xhaka needs to improve his discipline in order to gain the starting spot which his talent and technical attributes, taken in isolation, surely deserve. That he still picked up a yellow card in his few minutes on the pitch yesterday continues a trend of ill-discipline in his Arsenal performances so far. I’m sure he’ll calm down and sort it out. However, I can understand why Wenger is unwilling to risk vital points in a tight title race while the new boy adapts.

    1. I can understand it can be irksome when a writer doesn’t seem objective when it comes to certain players (for instance, I think Andrew over at Arseblog is too easy on Ramsey and too harsh on Walcott; and I myself think Rosicky’s reputation among Arsenal fans in general is a tad overblown), but you have yourself implied that Elneny is a “filler” – while Tim is probably also being too harsh, you seem to agree he should probably not be a starter, and not in a game of this magnitude. I had hoped his taking of the safe option far more often than not was more to do with being new and not wanting to start with any mistakes, but he’s been here almost a year now. Could it be that he knows he’s not a starter and so plays safe when he gets his few chances, or is this really all he’s capable of? I feel he might work better with a different midfield partner, but I also feel Coquelin has earned the right to start for Arsenal. What gives?

      1. Here’s my take on Elneny, in bullet points:
        1. I think Tim is too harsh on him, watching the game subconsciously looking for evidence that confirms his established opinion of the player, but then again, this is something we all do when watching games. In my real life I’m a philosopher of mind & cognitive science, and I think about the degree to which perception is “cognitively penetrated”, i.e. influenced, by our beliefs. The issue is controversial but the short answer is that while it’s unlikely that having different beliefs and biases means we literally see different realities (contrary to what some people, e.g. Thomas Kuhn, have thought), there’s ample evidence to suggest that different background beliefs shape how we interpret what we do see, in all sorts of subtle and unconscious ways. (None of this is especially original or surprising, and you don’t need a PhD to see the truth of it.)
        So, in my own case, I have to admit that, because Ramsey, Walcott, and Giroud all get on my nerves (to varying degrees and for various reasons), I’m much more prone to see their mistakes and much less likely to excuse those mistakes than I am for a player I like a lot, like say Ozil. Of course, I wasn’t originally biased against them–I formed my initial opinion of them based on watching them over time. But once formed, that opinion has shaped how I interpret each new performance of theirs, and I tend to see what I expect to see, which then only reinforces my original opinion. I think this is going on with Elneny and Tim, if it’s not too obnoxious for me to say as much.
        2. Having said all that, I thought Elneny was poor in the second half, and for basically the reason that Tim says: he lacks physical strength and power, which means he’s not strong enough to ride challenges from big PL midfielders (this also explains why he’s quick to play backpasses, since he’s worried he’ll cough it up to stronger opponents), and (more importantly) he lets opponents get by him too easily.
        3. I don’t think he was bad in the first half, just ok.
        4. What I’d say in his defense, and what I think Tim fails to see or acknowledge is that he’s actually very good at quick, one-and-two touch pass-and-move combinations (there are many examples from the games he’s started, both this year and last), and THIS is his primary way of avoiding opponents and breaking through defensive lines. He’s obviously not a dribbler like Cazorla (few are from that deep midfield position), nor does he have Xhaka’s amazing range of passing (though I think he has a much better passing range than people give him credit for, see the recent Boro and Sunderland games, e.g.), nor does he have the power of a Toure or Pogba to break through the lines that way. What he has is quick combinations and a good instinct about moving laterally AND forward into space.
        5. Unfortunately, to play this way you really need a midfield partner who’s on your same wavelength, and Coquelin just isn’t that guy. In fact, I suspect that Coquelin and Elneny isn’t ever going to be great as a partnership, NOT because they’re “too defensive” or “too conservative” or “lack creativity” as many fans have said, but because they weirdly expose the weaknesses of each other: Coquelin’s biggest weakness is working to show for the ball, and be able to move the play forward when he gets it, so he makes a terrible partner for the quick combination play of Elneny; and Elneny’s greatest weakness is being lightweight defensively, which means Coquelin is completely swamped doing the work of two men, constantly running around trying to cover for his partner and thereby being less effective at the thing he does best, i.e. sniffing out danger.
        6. I think Elneny would also be better if given a run of games (he looked average against Boro but much better a week later against Sunderland), but unless there are more injuries, I can’t see a case for him deserving more starts right now, which I guess is the paradox of playing in a world class squad. Rather, I think our priority is getting Xhaka settled into the starting lineup and close to his best, at least until Cazorla returns.
        7. It really is bizarre that Wenger left out Xhaka, given he played him in the NL derby (if there’s any game in which you need to keep your cool, it’s that one), and he was one of the best players on the pitch that day. Maybe he came back looking fatigued from international duty?
        8. Ramsey absolutely should not start from the left ever again. If Wenger was so intent on being solid in the centre of midfield yesterday, why not play a 4-3-3 with Ramsey-Coquelin-Elneny/Xhaka, and have Ozil-Alexis-Theo up top to play on the break. Not saying you permanently move Ozil out of the 10 to accommodate Ramsey, but maybe just for this game it would have made some sense. But Ramsey on the left really held us back (Iwobi combined well with Elneny during a semi-good run we had at the end of last year, e.g. games against Everton and West Ham).
        9. To top it off, AW’s failure to change things earlier in the second half really was awful management.

  2. What I don’t get is why isn’t Xhaka starting.
    I’ve read somewhere during the summer that he wasn’t actually a Wenger buy, and that he was bought a bit against Wenger’s wishes. Now, that sounded untrue then and it still does, but I really have to wonder why a player bought for 35 mil and one of the stars of the Euros is not starting the biggest games against Chelsea, Liverpool or Man United.
    I mean, it’s like finally having the money to treat yourself a nice dinner with your girlfriend, you go out and buy a prime beefsteak, and then when it’s time to eat, you just reheat that lasagna from yesterday and leave the beefsteak in the fridge.
    It doesn’t make any sense, and I can’t buy the story of him adjusting his temper. If you are a coach and your player is a bit temperamental, you just tell him to cool it down. I mean, it’s not like they are teaching him yoga and making him visit anger management classes since June.
    It’s just silly because Wenger had the money to fix the midfield problem, but instead it seems as if he is intentionally buying round players for square holes.
    Also, without Cazorla, we are proper f****d.

    1. I like Xhaka a lot. I think he should be starting. I can also see why did not in this game. Coquelin is Wenger’s preferred enforcer and requires a more steady presence next to him. Wenger is big on partnerships forming a unit greater than the sum of their parts, and clearly he feels Xhaka is not a good partner for Coquelin, not yet, and neither is Ramsey. This was a game that combined two of Arsenal’s worst opponents in recent years, Man United and Jose Mourinho, so Wenger went safety first and the result was predictable. A Coq-Neny midfield is not going to control possession or create a whole heck of a lot, but if you’re trying not to lose a game it’s probably the safest combination out of who was available. Wenger pretty much admits he picked a side based on battling qualities and while Xhaka has that in no short supply, his disciplinary record and compatibility with the also at times borderline reckless Coquelin went against him being picked for this fixture.

      1. For a person big on creating a team ‘greater than the sum of their parts’, Wenger’s failed consistently. We’ve been underperforming for years now. It’s his team, his players, his plan, his failure.

        He picked these players for their ‘battling qualities’, which is quite childish. I mean, he essentially said that these players ‘run more’, which is why he picked them. He wasn’t interested in the way these players work with one another, or how they’re supposed to build up play. No, he wanted to win the ball, never once thinking that these players won’t be able to do anything once they do.

        What’s sad is that we were worse in the second half than we were in the first. That shows his lack of foresight and the ability to cope with more tactically astute, defensively-oriented managers.

        1. Disagree disagree. Last season was the only time we under performed and that too in the sense that it was wee Leicester that finished above us.

          And what if it were Mourinho who withdrew his fullback to put on the winger that went past his marker and put in a cross to the other sub to score? You’d be calling him a tactical genius.

          Wenger puts on all the fullbacks. Puts on all the strikers. Plays all the DMs, and replaces fullbacks with wingers during games. But these are not seen as mid game tactical changes when he does it. Because Venga dont do tactics!

          For someone who is supposedly so terrible at tactics, signings, motivating and everything else, we do remarkably well.

        2. Tusk, underperforming based on what? Commonly, performance in the league table is directly correlated with total wage bill, and guess what, Arsenal are 4th in wage bill. We’ve been finishing above our predestined station in life the past two years at 2nd and 3rd. I think the frustration of most supporters is maybe we could be doing more with the resources we have, but based on the resources we’ve invested, we are right at or above where we “should” be.

          Your second paragraph is full of assumptions and it sounds like you’re just frustrated overall. I can understand that. But you say a lot of things that aren’t fair and/or aren’t true.

        3. Uh, no. Football is not a wage bill evaluation.Nobody seems to have told Ranieri, and yes, we know that they caught lightning in a bottle. No, we’re not where we should be, Doc. Wenger’s team stumbles in the fashion at the same point in the season for the same reasons season after season, and he has failed to addressed the issues. Address known weaknesses at the tip of the spear and in central midfield, and chances are we’d be champions.

          Is it fair to harshly judge him by the standards of his own consistency? Probably not. But you wonder what if he hadn’t spent only £12m two summers ago — money that didn’t roll over into the next year’s budget (i.e. a transfer budget given back), whether we’d have bridged the gap between 2nd and 1st a year later.

          I’d say that given Arsenal’s financial muscle, income, turnover and other metrics, they’ve actually underachieved on the field in the past 6 years.

          1. Unfortunately data shows football is very much a wage bill evaluation. The financial landscape has changed a lot because there is so much competition for top talent now and because even poor PL clubs can afford to sign and keep players like Shaqiri and Payet. So wage bill probably isn’t as powerful a predictor as it once was, and that has led to an improved standard of competition throughout the league; but it’s still pretty powerful. Good managers can shift those odds up somewhat, but let’s not pretend like Leicester were anything other than the occasional freak occurrence every league experiences once every 20 odd years. I certainly wouldn’t chalk them up to Ranieri’s brilliance. He’s a decent coach but that season wasn’t about him.

            When you say over the last 6 years we’ve under performed, that’s easier to defend than the last 3 years. The last 6 years would include those grim 2010,2011,2012 seasons, Wenger’s very worst. I consider that to be rock bottom and obviously we’ve improved a lot since then. The money has also changed a lot since then, we’ve been spending wads of cash we would never have dreamed of doing back then, and the squad has been turned over entirely since then. So it’s like talking about two different eras.

  3. There were a few disconcerting things about the game. First, Wenger in turns harshly criticized Chile for even considering playing Alexis and very publicly begged them not to. Then despite obviously nursing an injury and playing at basically midnight Wednesday morning British time, flying back and arriving in England on Thursday morning which severely limited adequate post match recovery treatment, Wenger throws him into the game on Saturday. And Alexis’ performance reflected that.

    Regarding Elneny, I’m perfectly happy to play him against lower league opposition in the cups and relegation scrappers in the league. Starting him to provide a physical presence against the likes of Pogba seems counterintuitive. And with Cazorla’s injury threatening to be possible season or even career threatening, you have use your squad.

    Which brings me to Xhaka. You don’t spend that much money on a player to warm the bench. Xhaka cost roughly what Özil and Sanchez cost and they walked into the team. Mustafi, despite suffering from growing pains, has walked into the team. We’re almost a third of the way into the season, with our best passing central midfielder injured and the closest replacement in terms of passing accuracy and incisiveness doesn’t start. And even though it was obvious by halftime that we desperately needed a passer who was capable of dictating play from deep, Xhaka didn’t come in until well after the damage was done. Xhaka and Coq would’ve been physically ombative and provided a passing platform. Xhaka and Ramsey would’ve been combative if not positionally disciplined but would’ve given more drive forward. Coq and Elneny were not incisive in possession and not very aware or physical without.

    1. Coquelin/Xhaka is a combustible relationship. Both players like to be on the front foot and neither have great disciplinary records. Yes, Xhaka gives much greater penetration from deep areas with the ball but Coqelin was not going to be dropped for this game and their styles are probably too similar to be tried together for the first time in a game this big. The outcome of a draw is good. Getting outplayed doesn’t feel good, not very Arsenal, but the point feels just fine. I don’t have a huge problem with a safety first approach in this fixture.

        1. Yes but that was also a home game against a side who likes to press the ball. Xhaka’s penetrative passes are much more important in that situation. Also highlights they haven’t worked together much and that’s been part of the problem lately, lack of cohesion in midfield connecting defence to attack. Lots of unproven relationships to choose from. It’s not just Cazorla’s quality that’s missing, it’s the feel for his game that our other players have developed.

  4. You know you’re playing badly when a journeyman like Antonio Valencia has a very good game against you. Marcos Rojo, a flop, had a good game. As did Michael Carrick. I know he is much liked at United, but he’s a has-been. Phil Neville, wearing some horribly red-tinted glasses on the commentary we get where I am at the moment (Trinidad), said Pogba took the game by the scruff of the neck. Like hell he did. He had one of his better games, but was nothing special.

    We were tentative, and started on the backfoot. Someone made the astute comment on the last thread that the first 10 minutes or so of our matches dictate how we pla,y and the result. That’s right. They came flying out of the box — attacking, harrying, and pressing all over the field. We never really found our gear. Add to that an uncreative midfield, and we were wooden. The player who might have thived in a game like this, apart from Santi, is Jack Wilshere (or Rosicky in a long gone era). We simply did not have a player capable of ferrying the ball between the lines to beat the press, rather than passing into danger. The mindset was set by the selection. The players are not stupid. A central midfield of Elneny and Coquelin was a pretty eloquent statement of our ambition.

    The Xhaka thing puzzles me too, because we thought that we were getting an upgrade on Coquelin, who, while a superb stopper, simply does not have much else about his game, to hold down what is arguably the most important position in the team — its fulcrum. I hope that we bought what we intended to buy, and we’re simply easing him in. Playing alongside Ramsey, he made a difference when he came on. And Ramsey played better.

    Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey, Walcott and Jenkinson were all poor on the day.

    1. i don’t think i agree with you that valencia is a journeyman. he’s a talented player that man united bought when cristiano ronaldo left and has been there for what’s getting close to ten years now. a regular whenever he’s been fit, valencia’s a very dangerous player. i was shocked that he featured because i didn’t think he was fit. rojo had a good game because there was no one attacking him; ramsey was playing central midfield. carrick is capable of doing what he does. lastly, i don’t think jenkinson was that bad. he’s just not hector.

      as for xhaka moving coquelin, i always said that i felt xhaka was coming to compete with cazorla, not coquelin. xhaka is a #6 while coquelin is a #8. i agree with everything else you said.

      1. Glad you pointed that out. Valencia was a Fergie favorite. A stalwart in their final 2 title-winning sides, no? And if WE know that Monreal is not fast enough to keep up with the fleetest wingers, so do all those opposing managers.

  5. Haven’t rewatched the game yet, but my initial impression was that
    1. Mourinho actually came to play and his B team as it were, is actually pretty good. Martial, Valencia, Mata and Pogba were threatening.
    2. Jenks is not Bellerin, but did a good job defending his side. His lack of killer speed and offensive production was notable once we put Ox in.
    3. Speaking of which, it was nice to see Ox and Ollie come good. Both have had their share of stick and snide comments.
    4. Ozil was pretty anonymous. I think that was partly due to him making runs while Sanchez dropped deep to collect. I don’t really understand why that’s our plan, since I would far prefer Ozil create rather than score. He also seemed to be walking an awful lot.
    5. Elneny was OK, not great. Maybe he is the weak link that kept us from being fluid, but I can’t help thinking that if we had someone more creative than Coquelin, e.g., Xhaka, we could play El Neny and have a functional midfield. I hope that Jack is getting plenty of experience, because he’s going to be the best candidate to replace Cazorla next year.
    6. I wonder what it would be like to play Giroud and Alexis on top of a 442. Again, I get it that Ozil doesn’t provide enough defensive support. But I think Giroud and Alexis would complement each other tremendously.
    7. I was much happier to draw than when we played the Spuds. I don’t think it’s the weakest United Team in a generation, but rather the most underperforming. It is still full of top drawer talent.

  6. Agree with what you said about Elneny but not about ox, ox is far from a great player.
    With a team selection like this it sometimes feels like Wenger sets his team to lose on purpose. Ramsey should play in midfield or never plays at all. Xhaka lacks discipline but doesn’t lack fight. Wenger’s quote that you quoted above was shameful he should choose his words a bit more carefully.

  7. A point away at Old Trafford with Le Mou in charge and a point stolen at death? Sounds great.

    The results justified the game plan. Xhaka did not start but would probably have been sent off since this is a Le Mou team. Refs usually send off one of our guys when given the chance.

    Secondly, I think Elneny works better with Xhaka and Carzola as his midfield partner. He is more inhibited with Coquelin or Ramsey alongside. We already know this from last season, it is nothing new.

  8. About Elneny and Denilson, don’t know that I agree. I saw a lot of Denilson at home games. No way he was a good tackler. There was a moment midway through yesterday’s game when Elneny threw himself into a block in the Arsenal box (admittedly he’d given away the ball). Denilson, who would take a leisurely jog alongside an opposition attacking player bearing down on our goal without bothering to put in a tackle or a professional foul, would NEVER have done that. I remember reading an interview in Arsenal magazine in which he said Wenger was grooming him to succeed Gilberto Silva. But he was too soft. Given time and space he was neat and tidy, and could pose a goal threat, but rarely have I seen a decent Arsenal player who was simply not suited to the battle and grit of the English premier league.

    You make Elneny sound worse than he is. He is more of a battler than Denilson (much more), and more defensively and positionally sound than Ramsey. That said, we bought Elneny in a wasted year for transfers, for no other reason it seems than he was a good player available on the cheap. We were crying out for a DM, but having failed to buy anyone apart from Cech in the August transfer window, we bought in a player we didn’t really need in January. This is why Jack bolted. We had, perversely, 5 players competing for a spot (Jack could also double for Ozil), and one one-of-a-kind player in Coquelin. He’s limited but cannot be dropped because he’s the only one of his kind.

    Elneny’s a decent all-round midfielder, who has a decent shot. But Denilson he’s not.

  9. Happy about the performance. Not at all. But mildly happy about the result. The frustration comes from thinking that we should be better. And that is correct. But it was a big game away, and we played conservatively and got a point. Something you have praised in the past.

    Hey, maybe you praise it because it all goes to plan for Mourinho in terms of denying space, time wasting and killing the game. While Arsenal obviously don’t do that or do that as well. But in itself, it is a result that is acceptable.

    On the NLD, I missed the game live, and only saw it recently. Not being nervous about the game while watching, I didn’t think we were caught out by Spurs as much as I read about in the comments around the blogs. I thought we edged that game overall, and was disappointed we didn’t win.

    And there’s no reason to keep saying ‘the worst ManU team of all time’. They have always had some good players. They have far better individual talent than we’ve had over some past years where we were still expected to win.

    Hmmm. Elneny worse than ‘prime’ Denilson. Sure. I liked Denilson. He was good and was ruined by the way the game is refereed in England and the fans’ reaction to him long before that Rooney run (which ended his career and support even with me) Not saying it wasn’t his fault, just that it was a situation where he wasn’t helped. Elneny is a good squad player with some good traits. Why he started has been revealed. It is also clear Wenger doesn’t trust Xhaka completely yet. I don’t see any reason why this should lead to conspiracy theories. Maybe he just needs time to settle into the league, learn his teammates’ game etc. Or maybe he was just tired (Xhaka has said the English game is tough physically more than anything else) I will agree though that Elneny was poor defensively and did contribute to the Mata goal (which was so frustrating to concede)

    Alexis could be rested if we played Giroud, which wouldn’t have been the worst choice. But we’re definitely missing Lucas here. That stupid oaf at Reading trod on him and injured him just when he was starting to get into it.

    On the bright side. Stay within contention till January and with no new long term injuries, and we’ve got the depth to push all the way. We’ve also got a decent run of games coming up and the CL will be taking a break soon. On that note, PSG. We weren’t ready last time out, and as luck would have it, are creaking now just before we play them. But I think even a 0-0 draw will give us the group if we win the last game.

  10. Who would you rather start as a manager – players who are physically drained from recent travels/over playing/recovering from injuries (Sanchez, Koscielny) or, players in decent form/less travels (Ozil, Ox)?

    Wenger went for a mix of both & you really can’t blame him. You cannot start with your marquee players and Alexis certainly needed to start even if he was remotely fit. Hope he gets a rest against Bournemouth.

    I do regret his decision to start Ramsey though. You play certain players and build them for a position. Ramsey on the wings seems a failed experiment.

    Looking at the manager’s recent history, he likes fixing his team selection for a series of games which means we may again see Ramsey on the wings. If it were up to me, I would put my faith in Iwobi, Ozil, Walcott. Those 3 behind Alexis proved vital at the beginning of the season and still, could continue to flourish.

  11. Tim, I remember you being a fan of Elneny. What changed?

    I did make the Denilson comparisons recently as well, but I wonder if we’re being too harsh on elneny, since Denilson was so bad at tracking back that even the referee outpaced him. Remember that infamous game?

    1. Denilson was a fine young player. I think he never developed his game from the time he was recruited by us and I’m sure that wasn’t for a lack of coaching. Some players just don’t develop as expected. Look at Anderson, countless others.

  12. We were never going to play great with some knackered players off the back of an international break. I think arsenal are doing alright this season, enough to look at this game for the lucky smash and grab it was, and move on.

  13. this game was poorly managed by wenger. when i woke up and saw the starting line-up, i thought to myself, meh, i get it. then i heard wenger’s pre-game interview where he repeated one of the dumbest things he’s ever said; ” i let the player declare himself fit”. he was talking about sanchez. the last time i remember wenger saying that was before the first leg of a champions league game against barcelona. both cesc and gallas were out injured and hadn’t played a full game in weeks. no one expected them to be in the team. well, not only were they in the team, they were both starting against barcelona. nuts!

    well, gallas was done before half-time and fabregas got injured later in the game. more significantly, neither featured again for the rest of the season. you shouldn’t play guys when they’re not fit as the risk of losing them long term for a single game is too big; especially when you have options. i would prefer a fully fit giroud over a half-fit alexis. use the squad and let alexis heal.

    second, no way should either theo walcott or aaron ramsey have played the full ninety. both were completely ineffective. in fairness, ramsey looked better when wenger brought on giroud and moved ramsey inside. ramsey provided no threat to the man united rb because he was trying to play center mid.

    like theo before him, alexis is not a center forward. sure, he’s had a good run but a false 9 is not difficult to defeat. he often dropped too deep and arsenal had no penetration. most of his possession in the last hour of the game was between the midfield and the defense. alexis is on record saying he learned how to play forward by watching videos. if he were my player, i’d be embarrassed by that statement. wenger makes £8 million a year and his players are learning soccer from watching youtube.

    1. if players can declare themselves fit, why do arsenal employ such highly trained medical professionals who care nothing about football and whose sole purpose is to monitor and ensure the health of the players? why do arsenal have a manger if the players are calling the shots? go figure.

  14. There is no doubting Arsenal’s level of technical ability. However, Arsenal has a psychological problem that starts at the top and filters down to the players. Any leader who sits on the sidelines with his hands folded under his belly , rocking back and forth like a medicated psych patient as Wenger often does during big games suggest fear, timidity, surrender, sedation; precisely the kind of traits exhibited by the most recent versions of Arsene’s Arsenal.

  15. as for the “£35 million xhaka should play” band, he doesn’t look quite ready to me. he was okay against tottenham but that game was at home and he was only okay, not great. he doesn’t look like he’s improved much since the pre-season performances. i’m sure wenger had a reason for not starting xhaka and if i were a gambling man, i would guess that he’s just not quite there yet.

    elneny was very much at fault for the goal. he failed to mark herrera and failed to cut out the pass to mata. what did elneny do to affect the play? he watched it happen, nothing more. coquelin saw the play developing and had a good position but when rooney made that smart near-post run, coquelin had to go with him, which opened up the passing lane to mata. is he really worse than denilson? that’s relative. their skill sets are similar but they play different positions. denilson was a dm while elneny is a #8. as a #8, you have to be very strong. playing coquelin and elneny unbalanced the arsenal midfield.

    lastly, someone suggested that arsenal didn’t need to buy elneny last season. that’s a lie. arsenal absolutely needed elneny. do you remember how much a disaster the flamini/ramsey partnership was?

  16. It’s frightening how uncoordinated and tentative we can be without a certain diminutive Spaniard pulling the strings.

    His ability to create, to conjure up not just through balls but moves that beat his marker and allow him to dictate play. His sense of timing and rhythm and flow of the the game…

    His Achilles Heel is our Achilles Heel. No sign of a return anytime soon.

  17. Giving praise to the tactical changes the Boss made which produce a well earn point. It’s about time the players step up for the boss.

  18. In other news, Hector Bellerin has signed a new longterm deal. The kid is well on his way to inheriting Lahm’s crown as the world’s best right back. Looking forward to watching him for a long time now.

  19. I don’t understand why Wenger waits so long to make subs. It’s so predictable. The game was not going well at all. If it wasn’t for Cech, and an obvious penalty not given, they would have been trailing by 2 or 3 at half time. The plan obviously wasn’t working. Changes should have been made sooner. Arsenal have had a lot of luck this season, but you can’t expect that to last.

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