Damnable Luck!

Good morning readers! I hope all is well there. Everything here is fantastic. In fact, things have rarely been better. It feels like the world is brighter and happier every single day. My routine is to wake up, turn on my phone, check the news feeds and have a good chuckle at the kind-heartedness and compassion of my fellow Americans.

For example, the other day I noticed that American border patrol agents are detaining American citizens who were born in certain countries. This is done for their safety of course. There is no safer place than in custody!

This is not a “muslim ban” (yet) because as you know we aren’t detaining any citizens from Saudi Arabia, which is where 15 of the 19, 9/11 hijackers came from. But don’t you worry, we will eventually get around to detaining all people from all countries which contain muslims. This is just the trial balloon.

This also isn’t a terrorist ban because last I checked we aren’t detaining people like Dylann Roof or Alexandre Bissonnette, two guys who went into churches and shot innocent people while they were in the middle of prayer.  These were two white men who committed acts of terror against minorities. But as you know, we don’t think all muslims are terrorists, nor do we think that all white Christian men are terrorists, so we can’t detain all white Christian males, check their browser history on their phone, and make sure that we are safe from that threat.

Like I said it’s a non-stop chuckle-fest over here! Compassion, intelligence, and reason run amok.

That stuff is all boring, I know. The important thing is that Arsenal played a game yesterday and gosh darnit if they weren’t just unlucky.

I tuned in exactly at the 10 minute mark, just in time to see Younes Kaboul fire in a direct free kick off Aaron Ramsey’s ass. The Watford players erupted into joyous celebration and I couldn’t help but be swept up by the emotion. What a great moment for their club, to have a former Tottenham star, who was once described as “part time footballer, full time stiff”, score his third career goal against Arsenal. Did you know that Arsenal are Kaboul’s favorite team to score on? Yep, three times.

Kaboul plays alongside a guy who has an actual pony tail. Prodl is his name and he’s Austrian. If I was in charge of detaining people at the American border I would move “men with top knots, ponytails, and rat tails” straight to the top of the list. Never trust a man with a pony tail (sub in “rat tail”, man bun, or top knot depending on the situation).

Understandably, Arsenal’s level of concentration dropped after conceding the first goal. If I was out there on a cold Tuesday in London and had just conceded an ass-goal, I’d probably switch off too. So, when Gabriel, who has to be the worst player in professional football at throw-ins, took a throw-in and kind of threw the ball in Ramsey’s direction it was understandable that Ramsey didn’t really challenge for the ball. And then when Capoue casually collected the ball and dribbled at the defense, I can understand why a tiny little shake of the shoulder would fake Coquelin out of his boots, and how Mustafi wouldn’t be aware of the threat of Capoue and just let him walk right past him. Capoue casually took a shot and Cech parried into the waiting feet of Troy Deeney. Unlucky all the way around. Shucks and darn.

After the game Wenger was stumped as to why Arsenal struggle at the start of some games.

We have first to analyse well why we didn’t start well. We have some situations in our team that at the start of the game, we are not completely clear. And we have to analyse that well.

I sense a full-bore investigation impending and I’m as excited for that inquiry as I am Trump’s look at how 3 million people supposedly illegally voted, which is going to be headed up by Steve Bannon and Mike Pence – two men registered to vote in at least two states.

Arsenal will look at tape from this match against Watford, the one against Bournemouth, the one against Liverpool, PSG, Ludogorets, Tottenham, Man U, and Southampton (in the EFL Cup). After that, maybe Wenger could also pop on his sleuthing hat, use a mirror to get it on straight Mr. Wenger, and take a look at why Arsenal also switch off after scoring early goals like they did against Everton and Man City. I suspect that the answer will be “sometimes we play a little with the handbrake on” and then Arsenal.com will play one of those videos with Theo Walcott hilariously recalling how the Boss was super steamy hot angry at half time against Watford. I bet Steve Bould stood there and handed Arsene Wenger water bottles to throw.

Arsenal did play better once Wenger made some changes at half-time. He took Giroud off, who only had 13 touches in that first half – 5 of which were turnovers, and put Alexis back up front with Theo Walcott next to him. Alexis didn’t fare much better than Giroud and was dispossessed 8 times with a further 3 turnovers due to bad touch in this match. Yes, you read that right, Alexis lost possession 11 times – expect the spate of articles about him “losing his head” or “looking tired”.

Even Coquelin, who was taken off at the 67th minute had 4 turnovers in this match, three from bad touch. Arsenal wasted so much possession because Watford just out-hustled Arsenal from start to stop. They won more dribbles, tackles, and interceptions or as Wenger put it;

It was not good in the first half. Especially, I felt, in the first 20 minutes. We were beaten in the duels, they were sharper than us. We didn’t start the way we wanted. In the second half it was all us. We are unlucky, let’s be fair as well, to lose this game, we didn’t deserve to lose this game.

Outplayed in the first 20 minutes, yes. But even more important, and I have to be fair because Wenger told me to, Arsenal were unlucky. Arsenal did take 20 shots to Watford’s 10 and Lucas rattled the bar with a shot that was unlucky not to go in. “Unlucky Theo” also had three wide open chances and shot them either right at the keeper or out of play. Yep, unlucky and undeserved. Arsenal should always be able to take an entire half of football off and still get a result. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a loon and should be stopped by Homeland Security.

Arsenal were also unlucky that Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool all dropped points yesterday and Arsenal couldn’t capitalize. League leaders Chelsea played Liverpool to a 1-1 draw and Tottenham were held scoreless against Sunderland, the worst team I’ve seen since Derby. Those teams were all unlucky too, but also lucky because Arsenal could have made ground up on all of them but didn’t.

Instead of Arsenal being six points behind Chelsea, Chelsea extended their lead by a point and are now 9 points ahead. That means for Arsenal to win the League, the Gunners have to win every remaining game and Chelsea have to lose three and draw one.

But hey, like I said, I’m super cheery over here and I expect Arsenal to win the League after a total collapse by Chelsea. And by total collapse, I mean, that the stadium sinks back into Thames (no one in it of course), Roman Abramovich is arrested and all of his assets are frozen, Antonio Conte is found guilty of match fixing, and it’s revealed that Diego Costa eats babies.

If any of that happens, I’ll be the first to report on it.

Qq

52 Comments on Damnable Luck!

  1. Hey – Spurs fan here – are you really American? Not many of you guys get our version of football – but you clearly do. Nice style – enjoyable read – keep ’em coming. PS – you’re making me reconsider the old adage “AMericans don’t get irony.”

    • Yes, I am a “Septic” and of course we get irony, we elected Donald Trump — a failed businessman, who couldn’t book a cover band for his inauguration, who openly admits to sexual assault, who peddles conspiracy theory, who incites violence, who admits to buying and selling politicians, who hasn’t ever had a single consistent political position, who used his charities as personal bank accounts, who is currently selling access to the highest bidder, and who gets his information about the world from television — in order to fix American business, broker a bunch of great deals, drain the swamp, provide clear leadership, and bring back integrity and intelligence to the government.

  2. I just laughed when that 2nd went in. The world is far to fkd up at the moment to care about a rainy night in London.

    • This was exactly – EXACTLY – my reaction. The escapism that Arsenal provides suddenly doesn’t do it. It feels irrelevant.

  3. Last night sucked the life out of me, absolutely soul destroying. Despair, resignation, hope, despair and then anger…

    From about minute 5 of the game I could see what was happening, loose balls, nothing sticking and 2nd to everything – I had set myself up for the first goal going in and then us waking up, even though it shouldn’t come to that. I wasn’t prepared the 2nd goal though, ouch. We should have been playing close to the team we played against Southampton – lots of pace and power, moving the ball quickly early on would have seen us destroy Watford.

    The management team as a whole dropping a massive clanger there. It’s harsh on Giroud as he does bag us goals but we are simply more effective with him not in the first 11 when starting a game. The change was instant in the 2nd half last night and immediate against Southampton, he’s a brilliant impact player and perhaps the odd game when Alexis needs a rest, although Perez and Welbeck still are better options if we are going to play a quick dynamic game.

    Clutching at straws here but Alex Iwobi is going to be the jewel in our crown over the coming years, what a joy to watch, powerhouse running with the ball, full of trickery and can pick out some wonderful passes – he’s the heir to Ozil’s thrown for me…

  4. Arsenal likes to play cruel jokes on their supporters. Don’t know were to start from, actually don’t even want to, just a couple of thoughts:
    – Saturday could get ugly if we repeat that first time performance.
    – I’m so ready for a change that i wouldnt mind missing on the top four, if that is what it takes to break this endeless loop we are in.

    • I’ve been a sports fan for a long time. I understand this sentiment, I really do. One of my favorite teams was the Seattle SuperSonics. They made it all the way to the NBA finals, got beat by the Bulls, and the next year messed things up by buying Jim McIlvaine and handing him a giant contract. From that point on, the team was mostly a winner but never could get back to the big dance. Eventually, people started calling for Coach Karl to lose his job. He did but management stayed the same. The team went from bad to worse. Culminating in the ownership lying about how little money they were making on the team and eventually selling the club for a huge profit. The next owners moved the club to Oklahoma.

      My point here is that the ownership, need to be the ones who want to win in order for there to be winning. Until we have an owner who is willing to risk some of his fortunes on the team, I can’t see us being anything more than sort of competitive.

      • The top 4 used to be everything. Now top 6 is almost a hindrance – a clean run at the title without CL distractions is doing Chelsea no harm at the mo.

      • i think the investment on the team lately has send the message that there is the will to compete and win. The current squad looks good on paper but they are less than the sum of their parts, and sadly thats Arsene’s responsability. Look, i love the man to bits but there is something fundamental lacking and he can’t figure it out anymore. Something Stillberto said today rings true to me: Arsene lost Arsenal’s league hopes so he didn’t have to hurt Girouds feelings. Thats no dig to Giroud, but it kind of shows that Arsene doesn’t have the much needed ruthlessness to win us the league. Look at what Conte did at Chelsea. Things weren’t working out so he change and adapt for the sake of the team even if that meant benching Terry and Fabregas. Do you see Arsene doing something like that? Ramsey will continue to play whenever fit in spite of been a player that doesn’t fit in the best version we have seen from this team.

        • Yes, he benched the shit out of Mertesacker last year. Not sure why people conveniently forget that. He also benched the shit out of pretty much every one who doesn’t do what he wants or who can’t hang: Vermaelen, Arteta, Arshavin, Podolski, etc. He’s even benched Giroud before too. He’s ruthless when he wants to be. Giroud was in good form. Didn’t Stillberto just write a piece about how great Giroud is? Everyone else did. Look, it’s complicated why Wenger does what he does. I think we fans tend to over-simply things.

          • He did that but usually too late, you can argue that every player you have mention stuck around way longer than they should have. I also like Giroud, but we can agree that the consensus is that he is plan B material now. Of course hindsight is great and i know he has a very hard job but from the outside its still very frustrating watching the team make the same mistakes over and over again.

          • This is weird. Just a few days ago Giroud was a “hero” and people were asking why he doesn’t start.

            I would, of course, take an upgrade.

          • For the record: I wasn’t calling Giroud a hero a few days (or weeks) ago, and I (and many others, e.g. Gunnerblog and Arseblog and Tim Stillman) said I thought he shouldn’t be starting, but should function as a very good Plan B. I don’t think this was especially clear-sighted on my part, but something that many Arsenal fans (probably the majority) agreed on. If you’re attempting to paint the Arsenal fan base as fickle, fair enough, but I don’t think you should twist the facts to serve your point.

        • we have an upgrade: Alexis. Whats baffling is not to use him as a central striker in a must win game. We are so much better with a mobile fronte three. Giroud did his job and save our asses in late December/early Janaury during a hectic schedule but now we should be playing our best eleven and he is not in it. That doesn’t mean he isn’t useful.

  5. I haven’t rewatched it, but my impression from the first twenty minutes was that we were being outmuscled. It looked like the typical prem refereeing that permits bundling people off the ball, particularly if the ball carrier is wearing red and white and is in the process of turning or are otherwise vulnerable. If, on the other hand, the defender is from Arsenal then they strictly forbidden from touching the other player. If you think I’m exaggerating then tell me what was Moustafi’s foul that led to the free kick in the 9th minute? Why was Mariner so incensed, bugging his eyes out when Moustafi complained? Was the same foul called against Watford?

    The defending that led to the second goal was atrocious. But it seemed like Moustafi and Coq both got the message that the slightest thing would be called against them and calibrated their performances accordingly.

    I used to think of Untold as very tin-foily… but their referee reviews have given me pause. I’m coming around to the conclusion that we will never be permitted to win the league with Wenger in charge. English exceptionalism aside, I don’t see how it’s possible to deny the possibility of corruption in the Prem when there has been documented corruption in Serie A, La Liga, Ligue Une and the Bundesliga.

    On the positive side, this is a clear market inefficiency and I expect that betting against Arsenal in these kind of banana peel games (where the expected win vs the minnow would put us in contention) would prove lucrative.

    I’d be upset, but like you said, there are bigger fish to fry.

    • That was my impression too and by the 9th minute I sure it was going to be another case of selective refereeing. The stream I watched didn’t even show a replay of the Mustafi tackle so I can’t be sure but it didn’t look like much. When another foul was called against him for very little in a similar position I wouldn’t be surprised if he decided he had to hold back. I know there’s a perspective that at a team we should just suck it up and deal with it but when a referee’s likely to punish you for anything while being lenient to the opposition I can’t blame the players if it affects them. They’re only human. And i’ve no problem admitting the performance was terrible but the referee helped set the tone of that first half by punishing Arsenal players for any contact and the more dangerous the position the more likely he was to call a foul.

      People give Untold stick but they do the work and put up the reports and all the calls are there if you want to take issue with them. The fact that it’s really only them doing the work they do is a disgrace in my opinion. The reason I think so many people are dismissive of their work is because admitting that the field might be tilted unfairly leaves a sour taste and makes it extra hard to take the whole thing seriously.

      Again, i’ve no problem saying we were rubbish, or that we’ve failed to come up with a response to the high press or that the manager moving Iwobi inside was probably a bad call. But the very least I expect from a referee is that he treats both teams equally. When he doesn’t that overrides all other issues as far as I’m concerned and the idea that we should suck it up or just be extra good provides me no comfort.

      Regarding the ban it’s crazy how nakedly irrational it is. From what i’ve read none of the countries on the banned list have been responsible for attacks on American soil and it’s basically the case that if you’re a predominantly Muslim country but Trump has business interests there then your a okay. As terrible as the ban is it’s not even remotely consistent.

      Perhaps mourinho will have a meltdown tonight and give us a small reason to be cheerful.

    • The foul given was on Gabriel for shoulder barge in the back of Niang’s and not on Mustafi.
      Mistafi’s challange was about eight yards further up field from where the free kick was taken.

      Mustafi complained to Mariner as he should have, trying perhaps to influence refs future decisions, but there was nothing controversial about that particular call.

  6. I’m sick of repeating my exact same comments that I have been repeating the last 7-8 years.
    What’s incredible for me is that when Fabregas left because Wenger didn’t have the money to surround him with adequate quality, I could understand that.
    When Van Persie left because Wenger didn’t have the money to surround him with adequate quality, I could understand that.
    But to think the same thing about Alexis in 2017, almost four years after the financial drought ended, it’s just unbelievable.

    Overall, this is probably the best team we had in years, so maybe even then the problem wasn’t so much with the players. I’ll just repeat that I am now completely convinced that the only reason Wenger looked like a world class manager is because he only had Ferguson as his rival and he had the most expensive squad in the League.

    • It’s not a matter of quality. This team is good enough and talented enough. They just don’t play hard consistently.

      • Exactly, player by player we really should be winning the League. Conte only has two world class players in Hazard in Costa, but also one world class manager as well.

        • Well, I wouldn’t say we “should be” winning the league, but if we don’t it’s not for lack of talent to do it. I keep hammering on about percentages and I guess I’ll do it again; before a ball is kicked in the PL, what odds would you give Arsenal just based on the roster? I’d go for ~10-15%. Which seems low, but then you add it up: Chelsea 20-25%, City 20-25%, United 10-15%, Liverpool 10-12%, Tottenham 5-10%, Everybody else put together 5%. And how much can a manager really affect those odds? Since the theme of the post is luck, I’ll mention that it’s quite possible to land a coin on tails 10 times in a row, but however unlikely that string of results seems, it doesn’t mean your next coin flip is any more likely to come up heads.

          • These Chelsea and City squads are not better than this Arsenal squad. Period. As much as it pains me to say it, the manager is making the difference.

          • PFo, Conte’s record in Italy speaks for itself, but it wasn’t that long ago that we spanked his team 3-0 and people were wondering how long he had before Roman pulled out his axe. He’s obviously a good coach. He made difficult decisions about Ivanovic and switched to a system which is working for the players he has, so well done for that. Their success has a lot to do with his intelligence and intensity. BUT, I don’t think his team is good enough to go 13-0 again, and the fact they did that at all in this competitive a league says a lot of things broke their way during that stretch. Also he inherited a team which ran away with the league the year before last, so it’s not like he’s driving Chelsea to new heights. I’d like to see how his team adjusts if they lose Kante or Costa for any length of time.

        • If you think our manager has put together a better team than at least 3 teams with more resources and that we should be winning the league then on at least on some level doesn’t it mean the owners and manager are doing a great job, even if it’s only at recruiting players?

          • I think they are doing a very good job of recruiting players. We haven’t really “missed” on any of the players we either brought in or extended on big contracts. You could make the case for a few due to injuries but otherwise the record in the market is fantastic. The only team to have outdone them is Chelsea, they’ve been stellar in the market. Suspiciously so.

            If Wenger does go this summer, he will have left his successor in a fantastic position, even if Ozil/Sanchez contracts remain up in the air.

          • Doc,
            I’m not trying to go over the top in my praise of Conte or his team. I agree with you they have weaknesses, and they’ve benefited a lot from not having European football.
            But the simple fact of the matter is his team is doing considerably better than our team, and if they beat us on Saturday they will simultaneously knock us out of the race for good and put one big hand on the trophy. It will then take a significant downturn in form on their part for them to be caught by anyone.

            I love AW, but I’m done making excuses for him. This is Arsene’s team, bought for a substantial amount of money. He makes all the big decisions. He manages the squad and has overseen every aspect of its formation, its training, its tactics, and its team selection, for years. I think we’ve done well in the market recently, for which he deserves credit. I think our squad is a match for any in the league. So if we’re being significantly outperformed, league table wise, by a manager whose squad is no better than ours (arguably worse) and who has been at his club a far shorter amount of time than has AW, Arsene must take the blame.

            We are massively underperforming. This may not have been true eight, five, or even three years ago, but it was true last season, and it is true now. End of story.

          • We are not “massively” underperforming. Chelsea have been overperforming. Problem is if they revert to the mean they still win the league.

            We perform OK – we had what? 10-game and 7-game unbeaten runs this season? Don’t remember exactly, but we have these deep dives into weird holes that we have to pull ourselves out of and that always wreck our title chances. You have to play a near-perfect season these days to win.

            We miss Cazorla I think mostly because when he’s missing Ozil is also about half as effective. I’d be interested to see some stats on that though

  7. I’m glad I had to work last night.

    Not a lot to add; Tim pretty much nails it here. It’s vastly disappointing and part of a previous pattern of poor starts. The full scale investigation should’ve happened much earlier. But it’s true, football just doesn’t seem that important lately.

    • After Bournemouth. I can understand getting shocked by big teams coming out to press us but conceding three to Bournemouth should have resulted in the kind of inquest that prevented this thing from happening again.

      • My thoughts exactly. Wenger’s not covering himself in glory just about now on squad preparation, but I know better than to think it’s lack of effort or intensity on his part; it’s something else and I wish I knew what. It’s impossible to accept that we keep getting surprised by “small” teams coming here and playing with intensity but Wenger doesn’t seem to have the solutions. We do fine away from home (mostly) so it’s not like the squad is incapable.

        I also thought the team selection was wrong, midfield aside. Why does Gabriel keep playing RB when Bellerin is fit? Why did we get so far away from Alexis at CF that he hardly remembers how to do it? The revolving door at CM (for which Wenger cannot be faulted) is hardly helping matters either but those things seem common sense to me. We played so well against Soton partly because the whole team was quick and athletic. We get away from that a little when Ozil, Giroud, Monreal, Ramsey and Gabriel come in. They’re good players but the balance has to be better.

        • I can’t say at all. I’m completely stumped. If this was just Ramsey letting a player drift past him it would make sense but everyone looked sluggish. I know Wenger prepares them but I wonder if there’s something intangible missing? Look at me, grasping at straws.

          I thought Gabriel made sense. Wenger was clearly worried about their physicality and so Gab was there to provide some grit. But yeah, why Alexis isn’t allowed to play CF any more is weird. My hands are up in the air with this team. It’s just weird.

        • The Giroud selection was insanely wrong, not least because his main benefit to us is as a target man to aim crosses towards when we’re down and laying siege to an opponent’s goal in the last 20 minutes, and starting him from the beginning means if we go down (which happens far too often) we either HAVE to keep him in the whole game (far from ideal; e.g. last night we instantly looked better when he went off) or we get stuck really needing him at the end of the game, like last night.
          It was cruelly ironic, and a sign of just how bad Wenger screwed the team selection, that Giroud played precisely when we needed him least (and arguably was actually a reason we were playing poorly) and was unavailable precisely when we needed him most (I know there was talk of him picking up a knock which is why he went off, but no one can argue it didn’t make some sense taking him off, after that first half). If Giroud comes off the bench for that last 20 minutes, I bet we score an equalizer, at least.

  8. Looks like we should have played our team from the Southampton game.

    I now consider myself fortunate that I was at work and was not able to have my eyeballs bleed from watching that attempt at playing 1st team level football.

  9. A lot of fans are blaming Wenger for poor team selection. But seriously, that team should be able to beat Watford. The likes of Bellerin, Walcott and Welbeck have only just come back from injury. So he is being careful not to over play them. I do question, who is Arsenals back up right back at the moment though. Also thought Ox should have started instead of Rambo, after his display against the Saints. Watford just played an FA cup tie on Sunday. They got one day rest, and we still couldn’t beat them. So Wenger couldn’t use the ‘ We were a bit jaded ‘ excuse. In fact he needs to stop using that one. I feel this team will still end up top 4, which apparently is good enough for the board.

    • It not an excuse for the poor display but as far as I know Watford rested a lot of their team for the cup game in order to have a fresh team to face Arsenal.

  10. I think players often look tentative or lethargic or second-to-every-ball defensively (pick your favorite description) when the team is disjointed and things aren’t working WITH the ball, especially for a possession-based team like Arsenal.
    You can bemoan this tendency as mental weakness or a lack of preparation, and I don’t totally disagree, but players are human and I think it’s just human psychology that when things are frustratingly messing up when we try to attack, it’s more difficult to force oneself mentally to be proactive on the pitch and anticipate the next chance to win the ball back.

    With that in mind, I think a partial explanation (certainly only partial!) for our lethargy at the beginning last night is that AW picked a team with too many passengers, or, shall we say, “problem players”, when we have the ball. Coquelin, Ramsey, Giroud, and Gabriel all can be, at least at times (some more than others), weak points when we’re trying to transition up the pitch with smooth, fluid, rapid, possession football. Maybe picking each of them, considered on their own, made SOME degree of sense (e.g. Coquelin and Ramsey are our only fit senior centre mid specialists, Gabriel is more physical and taller than Bellerin so better able to deal with long balls, etc), but picking ALL of them was simply the wrong call.

    We’ve been seriously struggling with pressing teams all season, and in fact for several seasons (e.g. the humiliation at Anfield in the Spring of 2014 comes to mind), but now more and more teams, who don’t press every week and maybe wouldn’t have the confidence to do it against us in the past because they’re obviously inferior to us, are trying it as a tactic at the beginning of matches against us, whether home or away, because they’ve seen it works. We’re two thirds into the season and Wenger has utterly failed to come to grips with this tactic. The reasons for this are no doubt complex, and I don’t want to suggest that fixing the problem is easy or that I have the perfect solution. But surely it starts with picking the correct, balanced team, with enough players who have the skill and calmness on the ball (e.g. Iwobi, Ozil, Perez, Monreal, Sanchez when he’s not dribbling too much, Bellerin, the Ox when he plays sensibly in the centre, and several others who, alas, are unavailable at the moment) to cover for those (e.g. Ramsey, Coquelin, Giroud, Walcott) whose strengths are not in keeping possession under, and eluding, defensive pressure.

  11. I’m disappointed with our recent form but I’m not sure I agree that we’re massively underperforming. Our last 3 finishing positions have been 4th, 3rd and most recently 2nd in a league containing 3 teams with more financial muscle than us, even if that gap has closed in recent years. Up until a few days ago we were outperforming everybody bar a Chelsea team who’ve been on a great run.

    If being second in a league containing Chelsea, Man United, Man City, Liverpool and Spurs is us massively underperforming what room does that leave us to do well? Considering our relative financial muscle, if 2nd is massively underperforming that only seems to leave 1st place as what? Okay? Acceptable?Decent? I’m all wanting the best for Arsenal but aren’t those expectations just a little high? To me they are least.

    And how can we have the best team in the league, better than United and Chelsea and City and Liverpool, but at the same time have a sub par manager, owner, and a mentally fragile team? Sometimes it seems like we’re mentally fragile, lacking fight and discipline and we’re a joke, and the next week we’re the best team in the league and a joke because we’re only 2nd.

    Are our Arsenal glasses making us think an ok team is a great team? Is our manager great for putting that team together or past it because he can’t make them perform? If he can’t make them perform how are they a great team that should be winning the league?

    The only thing I’m sure of is that I don’t know.

    • 1. He’s past it because he can’t get them to perform. I think he’s done an admirable job with the squad (though it took him long enough).
      2. They aren’t a “great team” and no one is suggesting as much. Rather, they are a squad full of talent, with depth at pretty much every position, at least as much depth as any other team in the league, that is nevertheless performing as less than the sum of their parts.
      3. I wouldn’t say they “should” be winning the league. But they should be less than 9 points off the pace (probably worse after Saturday) at the beginning of February. If we fall short by, say, 2 or 4 points on the last day, then I think you’d definitely have a point that that really shouldn’t count as underperforming. But this looks very unlikely to happen. Having a title race (almost certainly) effectively over by February is surely underperforming for this squad, regardless of the other teams involved (especially given that we’re not talking about competing against, e.g., Pep-era Barca here; Chelsea have been in great form, but they have dropped a fair few points both before and after their winning run).
      4. Losing the league (by 10 points!) to Leicester last year was, surely, ridiculously underperforming for this team.
      5. Yes, we were second last year, but no one can tell me with a straight face that we performed like a second-place team for most of the second half of last season. We got there because Spurs went into meltdown in the last few games, and even then, we weren’t even close to Leicester (Leicester!), and this after beating them in January (or February, whenever it was) to close the gap to them to like two points (I think it was 2). We were shambolic after that game. We obviously underperformed.
      6. This year looks to be going the same way. After Man City, everyone was pointing to our easy run between that game and Chelsea, and saying if we went on a winning run we could potentially reel them in a bit before the game at Stamford Bridge. And in fact, that turned out to be true: if we had simply taken maximum points from the Bournemouth and Watford games, we would be 4 points back from Chelsea going into Saturday (a very gettable point in the Everton game would have made that 3). Then an argument could have been made that, despite being 4 points back, we’re just about doing our best and could be satisfied with the performance of the team this season, whatever happens at an admittedly difficult game at the Bridge. Instead, we’re 9 points back, with most of our hard games in the second half of our schedule still to come. That’s underperforming.

      Hope that helps. Any other questions?

      • Thanks for the reply.

        Honestly, I read comments before the start of every season by people convinced we’ve put together the best team in the league. Teampossible in this very comments thread suggests that we’ve the best team in the league and really should be winning it and he’s/she’s more than entitled to that opinion and in many ways I admire it.

        Someone else in the comments suggested that we have the team but it’s the manager holding us back (apologies I can’t find it now).

        This got me thinking on the nature of the team and the club. If we’ve a team that we think is good enough to win the Premier League then that’s got to be a great team right? We can’t have a poor team and still have expectations of being champions can we? Obviously everybody has different opinions but it does seem sometimes, if you mash all those opinions together, that we’ve a team we expect to challenge for the title, while also having a team that’s mentally fragile, has no leaders, and can only play well for half a season. We expect to challenge for the title but we’ve an owner who doesn’t care about winning, a manager who can’t motivate the players and a team that implodes at the first sign of pressure. I know it’s not black and white but it got me wondering just how good or bad the current team is. Have our players shown that they can be consistent enough to challenge for a title and are we just overvaluing our players because they’re our players? If the team is so good how is the manager holding them back, and if the team is so bad is the manager doing a good job by getting them to finish so high in the table?

        Teampossible’s comment just put me in mind of a club that, despite having a disinterested owner only interested in profits, we’re constantly putting together teams on less resources that we think should be beating teams with more resources, and when we don’t beat then we’re upset and feel the team and manager are underperforming. It just seems like there’s some disconnect or inconsistency there and I don’t mean this as an affront to Teampossible, this is a fairly common sort of stance to have on Arsenal. I think the exact same thing a lot of the time.

        I don’t want to make this about the manager but I am curious to see how we fare after he leaves. I love the guy, but don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a new manager coming in and I’m not even suggesting things will be worse after he’s gone. I just find it difficult to know how much to praise or be disappointed by current phase Arsene Wenger and his influence on the team and the club.

  12. The turnovers from bad touches. I don’t get why suddenly everyone lost their first and second touch. Did they get like that because they were being out-muscled? It backs up Tim’s Cazorla point – when he’s on the field, never mind the aggression of the other side, he almost never coughs up the ball and his technical control settles the others.

  13. And the throw in from Gabby was basically fine, Ramsey was thinking too far ahead and looking at where he was going to pass it, and forgot to watch the ball to control it. He keeps making these basic errors of concentration, it’s frustrating for such a good player. The whole team need to work on raising their floor and the heights will get higher.

    • I thought the throw-in wasn’t the smartest but Ramsey’s reaction was pretty bad. Instead of snuffing out the danger immediately, he turned around to give Gabby a dirty look. That half a second is all it took for Capoue to go by him unchallenged. I wasn’t impressed by his halfhearted chase either.

  14. PFo, you can’t credibly say that the Giroud selection was “insanely wrong.” He has been our most productive striker of late. It was clearly based on sound logic, so that bit of post-game armchair quarterbacking is unfair. Having said that, I prefer the setup we had earlier in the season was Alexis at CF, and swift, skilful accompaniment. We looked hard to handle, because defenders don’t know whose run to pick up.

    Giroud has earned his start, but this is where a manager needs some cojones — benching him for greater tactical good. Fans love his graft, his courage and his fight, and after Alexis he’s probably the most sung about player from the stands. But I’d still bench him and start Alexis up top. Thing about Giroud is that you can mark him to of the game tactically at the start. He’s the only one of the forwards who can ONLY play one role, CF. Welbeck, Walcott, Sanchez and Lucas can all play wing to give things a tactical tweak. Giroud can’t, so that is one predictable element right there.

    I think our problem (and the reason I disagree with Doc that we’ve recruited effectively), is that we have too much that’s average. Ideally we should have one of Giroud, Welbeck and Lucas, and one other exceptional, top tier attacker, a la Lewandowski. Welbeck didn’t even make the bench. That’s the problem right there. Forward line recruitment since Van Persie was threatening to leave has lacked top-tier quality and boldness.

    • It was only “post game” in that I said it after the game, but I’ve thought it (and said it to anyone who will listen) for weeks! Giroud should not be starting for us, as a general rule (obviously there could be plenty of exceptions). I have been utterly consistent in thinking this.

      I disagree with the idea that he’s “earned” his start. Yes, he’s scored goals. So what? It’s obviously a very important job, scoring goals. But the manager’s job is not to ensure his team scores goals. The manager’s job is to ensure his team take as many points they can from their fixtures. Giroud starting makes us worse overall (obviously this is an opinion I can’t prove, but it’s one shared by many others, including you, apparently). And this isn’t some weird fluke about our team chemistry–it’s directly tied to the fact that Giroud has massive weaknesses in his game (of which being very slow and immobile are the most obvious) and is clearly unsuited to play the rapid, fluid, passing game the the manager and most of the other players naturally want to play. So Wenger doesn’t owe Giroud a start, period. You hit the nail on the head in your second paragraph: it’s the manager’s job to have some cojones and do what’s best for the team. But he failed to do that.
      Of course calling it “insanely wrong” was hyperbole. But the idea that it’s a fairly rudimentary error to make is suggested by the fact that so many of us fairly observant, level-headed, dedicated (but obviously amateur) fans agree that it was the wrong call, and yet the manager, who’s done this job at an elite level for decades and gets paid millions of pounds to do it, can’t see it, or is unwilling to act on what he knows is the smart thing, presumably because he doesn’t want to upset the apple cart. That’s pretty damning.

      • I agree, to a point, with your contention that we’d be better suited having slightly less depth and slightly more quality (though I think Welbeck didn’t make the bench because he’s still recovering slowly from a long injury layoff). I would defend Arsene on that front, at least in the case of strikers, and say that finding “top top quality” is easier said than done these days. Would Arsene gladly trade two or even three of his forwards for Griezmann? I think so. But he’s got to look after the upkeep of the entire squad, and our transfer budget isn’t endless, in spite of what some people say. I think Perez has shown already he was a really shrewd signing, in spite of being out for a bit with an injury and not getting much playing time yet. I think the same thing about Welbeck’s signing. Giroud frustrates the hell out of me and I wouldn’t mind if he were to move on, but I have to admit that, at least until Welbeck can show he can stay healthy and play regularly as a centre forward, Giroud offers us something in the last half hour of games that no other member of the squad can give us. Our forwards are good enough for us to win the league.
        Now your point about too much mediocrity might apply better to our midfield…

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