Footballistically Speaking: more wrong

“No matter what you do, even if you get it right at some stage, people say ‘Why didn’t you do it earlier?’ It’s like the opposite is right, is wrong as well. If you get your starting line up wrong, you change it at half-time, people say ‘You see, he is a tactical magician!’ because he changed the team at half-time. But they forget that we got it wrong at the start. So you can always judge on both ways. I think what I did is just to give a bit more security to a team who conceded three goals in the last three away games, at West Brom, at Liverpool, at Crystal Palace and at some stage even to focus on something different for the players recreates some confidence.”

– Wenger on playing the back three against Man City and the perils of being a manager, 23 April 2017.

This is what I love about Arsene Wenger. It’s one of the many things but this penchant for dropping a line on us which just makes me stop for a moment and think about things and then laugh is easily my favorite thing that Wenger does.

I read that quote and thought “ha! Antonio Conte!” The Chelsea managers was hailed as a tactical genius for bringing on Hazard and Fabregas against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final. Late in the game Chelsea needed a result and Conte went to his bench, bringing on Hazard and Fabregas. Within minutes, Chelsea were up 4-2.  Maybe “hailed as a tactical genius” is a little hyperbole but the announcers on my broadcast here in the States said “at the very least, you have to give him credit, he must have planned this” while also criticizing him for not playing them from the start.

I think there is something a bit more radical in this quote, however, than Wenger just saying that critics are silly. He’s saying that every decision that we make is both right and wrong. If we have to think in dualisms, which I suspect that humans have a strong proclivity toward, everything contains varying amounts of rightness and wrongness.

Think back through Arsene’s career:

Won the League with the Invincibles, early exit in Europe.
Andrei Arshavin
Sold Fabregas and Nasri in the same season, but was forced to because both players quit on the team
Sold van Persie to Man U, also sold a huge arsehole
Bought Mustafi, but the good part there is… well we have a lot of center backs now and who knows, Mustafi might turn out to be a decent center back one day.

Jokes about Mustafi aside, the points is that every decision we make, like everything else, isn’t so much a dualism of right and wrong but part of a spectrum of wrongness. More wrong some times, less wrong others.

I’m sure you all think I’m more wrong today.

Qq

85 comments

  1. My guess is he’s also trying to pre-empt criticism that he should have made the switch to a back 3 much sooner in the season. We all know Conte did it after we thumped them, and that he was always going to make the change anyway. But with Wenger, given the team’s obvious defensive weakness, he only changed once doing so had no impact on Arsenal’s title hopes. (And out of desperation, rather than innovation.)

    Not saying it wasn’t “brave” of Wenger to switch, but literally everyone on this blog thought it would be a good idea ages ago. So Wenger’s quote is mostly telling us to fuck off, as he made the switch when he wanted to, which is his right as Arsenal’s manager.

    1. I don’t think he’s telling us all to fuck off.

      It’s incredibly rare for a manager to whip out a change of formation as drastic as 3 CBs in the middle of the season. That Conte did it was shocking for almost everyone, even though Conte managed that way in Italy. That Wenger did it is even more shocking because he’s been anti-back 3 for so long.

  2. Say what you want about the man, but Arsene is a wellspring of knowledge.
    He has a weirdly unique take on life for someone who has been in the spotlight for so long with the level of media exposure he is surely assaulted with everyday; Surely a lesser man would be quite jaded by now?

    I still think he’s maybe past it as regards taking the Arsenal to the next level, but I have the utmost respect for the man as a person.
    The one and only Arsene Wenger.

  3. Well said, Thetaeo. You too, Tim.

    We can want him gone, but we can still respect him as a person – for many things than just football.

  4. Some of the deepest lines in history – what “is” is, unknown unknowns etc. – are produced by men caught with their pants down but congenitally resistant to admitting it.

    I think we can add this to the list. No doubt it will inspire so many of us groping around the vastness of a universe that makes no sense. But right then, he had no good answer, not even close, and he knew it, we knew it, he knew we knew it and the rest is just fireside shadows on a cave wall.

  5. The difference between Wenger and other great managers like Mourinho, is that Wenger is the archetypal genius while Mourinho is the archetypal winner. People understand winners. Geniuses are much harder to get. So Genius wants perfection: the perefect goal, passing movement etc. Winners just want to win, it doesn’t matter how. So winners are adept at beating the opposition, so it is all about tactics. For Genius like Wenger it is more about beating yourself, so being better each time than you were before, until you get to perfection or being the best you be can, rather than tactically exploiting opposition weaknesses. Winners make history, like Mourinho has, with all trophies he has won at every club he has been at. Genius makes the future, like Wenger with the Stadium securing Arsenal’s future: now Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton all trying to the same. Like with his technique of scouting and nurturing super-talented kids, now everyone is doing that. Even with the Invincibles because they are the benchmark against which every future premiership winning club will be judged. Invincibles: genius. Winning Premiership with highest points tally: Winner. I think we all have both. I think Mourinho defo has genius but lets the winner come to the fore when it comes to management.

    1. I don’t think geniuses are hard to get. I mean I know what you are saying but I think people instinctively understand genius. Maybe not intellectually, but somewhere in our consciousness. That’s why works of art from the Renaissance, or from Van Gogh, speak to us when we look at them. We don’t understand it, but we feel it. Some people of course feel threatened by it, and it manifests as hate or trying to drag them down to our level. But recognizing genius? I think we all do that better than recognizing winners or something more mundane.

      1. Mate great point never thought of it like that. People see it and fear or are jealous of it. That is why we get so many mixed messages about Arsenal. Everyone is surprised at players wages but if you don’t pay what they want – no ambition. Everyone says you should give young players a chance but if you don’t buy someone who is immediately at the level – no ambition. Everyone thinks that prices for players are at times excessive but if you don’t pay 90 million euros for 29 year old Higuain – no ambition

  6. Yeah, I’ve often thought there is far too much emphasis on ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, teams are either ‘great’ and therefore all their players are great, or ‘shit’ and therefore all their players are shit, there is a definite trend towards losing nuance, and that loses you clarity in thought as nothing is EVER that simple.

    Except Mourinho. Mourinho is a cunt, it’s that simple.

  7. Except for some of the interviews in the past few weeks, one of the things I always enjoy about Arsene Wenger is his interaction with the journalists. They ask him about anything and everything, whether or not they are football related and he always seems to have an intelligent reply for them. I can’t think of a single manager who is regularly asked non-football related questions. I have seen Mourinho being asked such questions from time to time but he usually gives a PC answer and he definitely does not practice what he preaches.

    Although I have written him off, I hope he proves me (and almost everyone else) wrong and finds a couple of players this summer who can really push us on. I would love to see that twinkle in his eye again.

  8. When Thomas Jefferson sailed to France to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams he taught himself French on the voyage not only for diplomatic reasons but also so he could read Voltaire in the language.

    While Wenger is highly articulate in English to read/listen to him in French is another experience. I know just enough that I could follow the gist of his famous L’Equipe interview in the original and his diction is truly amazing.

    There really is only one Arsene Wenger.

  9. I thought a great example was Pep when we played them in December and he got it all wrong in the first half but was lauded as a genius for changing to overload the midfield in the second half. Despite this being the most obvious tactic against Arsenal that even a Neanderthalic English manager (insert your choice here) play successfully against us. It was hardly genius and one would of expected serious questions to be asked about what Pep was possibly thinking to start the game. Pep confidential read understandably in parts like propaganda being a celebration of Peps clear past achievements with great teams but knowledge of every tactic in the book is one thing and successful application another. He deserves both more time and some criticism too. A lot of managers take every opportunity to speak about their tactics to infer genius or at least defend themselves. Arsene is a different man who wisely and somewhat selflessly leaves the specifics of tactics secret and speaks only in general terms to the media. I enjoyed the above quote too and I am not surprised that it came after a game where Pep was again found wanting in my opinion. Perhaps a wry Wenger wink to the Genius Manager narrative?

  10. Wenger’s mojo has long since left him as a manager so I no longer think of him that way any more. He is a unique personality, almost bigger than the sport. He shouldn’t be doing this any more. He should leave it to a younger, more capable person and go onto so something greater. Writing, philanthropy, politics perhaps. Nothing he can’t do. Except catch football.

  11. I wanted to write about this on yesterday’s thread. Everything has to be dichotomized these days in order to be interesting. Wenger is no different. He’s either awful or awesome. Nuanced takes are few, and they are drowned out by the noise from either side of the widening chasm, though ironically the noise is coming from just a very vocal, wi-fi enabled minority on both sides of the trench. In a way, it’s a microcosm of modern politics which has followed the same pattern and both phenomena have to do with simple human psychology as we try to adjust our minds to the vastness of the information age. Allow me to indulge myself in a thought experiment along these lines…

    1. People love a good story. A good story has a beginning, an end, and a narrative. There are villains and good guys, and we feel like we know the characters first hand. We want them to be predictable so we can decide to either love or hate them. That sort of categorization helps our minds simplify the vast sea of information we expose it to on a daily basis. For example, it’s much easier to believe that Kante is a great player all the time than to analyze his game and pick out flaws, or to appreciate his subtler ups and downs. He’s in the “great” bucket and nobody will argue with that because…

    2. People like to be agreed with, so they go to forums predominantly where their views are shared. Conversely, few will challenge or evaluate on its own merits a widely held belief. This reinforces and validates beliefs and shrinks their exposure to more moderate or opposing points of view. The latter can be safely cast in increasing shades of negativity, safe in the cocoon of mutually held beliefs. Left unchecked, this eventually leads to radicalization as constituents push boundaries and other constituents are forced to follow or be left out in the cold, because…

    3. People need to fit in and need to be understood. Ideological niches provide a consistent source of nourishment in this regard. We can be told our ideas matter, that we are not alone, that we belong. The need for belonging is one of the most primal human instincts and when unmet, it can lead to extremism. Ironically, a strong enough ideologic niche can also lead to extremism, such as the small but very vocal constituents of Trump’s online supporters on Reddit ((https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/dissecting-trumps-most-rabid-online-following).

    I believe these are the very human, very primal urges that underlie some of the most significant narratives our our times or any times. What makes us unique is the speed with which ideas can be exchanged, for better and often for the worse. Arsene Wenger’s story is but a small, insignificant example of these global trends.

    As Jon Ronson so wisely put it (https://www.ted.com/talks/jon_ronson_what_happens_when_online_shaming_spirals_out_of_control), we have to decide for ourselves what is more important: people or ideology. Don’t let ideology become more important to you than people.

    1. Ignoring ‘nuance’, aka extraneous information, is probably evolutionarily adaptive when so many choices are semi-binary and made under conditions of uncertainty. Are you familiar with Gigerenzer and his work on heuristics? If not you might find this interesting and yet familiar.

      TLDR: In the ‘real world’ so called rules of thumb can be more accurate than multiple regression models.

      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:jBGu5f1LqdEJ:citrixweb.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/montez/upload/PaperOfTheMonth/gigerenzer_gaissmaier_2011-1-2.pdf+&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

      1. Heuristics are a big deal in medicine because, as you can imagine, medical decision making is also subject to them. The concepts of this paper are not applied often enough, but for me boil down to figuring out when I should slow down my decision making process and when it’s ok to be on autopilot. Very important to know the difference. Too often I see people just assuming that the available information is too incomplete/inaccurate to facilitate higher level decision making but seldom do they bother to check. Collective ignorance is perpetuated.

        1. ye old system 1 and system 2…

          I always tried to teach my juniors to ‘be a knife, but keep your head up’, run system 1 so that you can cut through complexity, but stay aware so that when you’re confronted with something that ‘doesn’t fit’ you fire up system 2 and carefully re-examine all your assumptions lest you find yourself at the lectern for a painful M&M or worse, on the stand.

  12. In other news, Joe Barton placed 1,260 bets on football matches between 2006 and 2013. 30 of them were on his own team to lose though he wasn’t in the match day squad (LOL!). He probably did it because he was pissed for not being picked. What a gigantic idiot.

  13. I dislike this quote from Wenger and others where he is trying to portray criticisms of tactical decisions as being the shallow thoughts of those whose perceptions of the decisions are being swayed completely by their results of the moment. Are there brilliant tactical decisions that don’t come off and a team still loses? Probably, yes. Are there tactical dolts who just push teams out onto the pitch (Harry Redknapp) and have decent success? Definitely.

    What bugs me is that Wenger’s tactical decisions are reactive instead of proactive. He needed to concede 20 goals in 5 games or whatever it was to decide he needed to shore up the defense with an extra CB not because he decided to mix up tactics to screw with Guardiola or whomever.

    I know – it can be argued Conte was also being reactive when he changed Chelsea, but I would argue otherwise; he came in as a manager who preferred 3 at the back, he needed to show that Terry et al were washed up and then made his switch. I think Conte was proactive planned it all along.

    1. It’s particularly interesting because Wenger definitely uses statistics so he, like Tim, must have seen our underlying defensive weakness in terms of big chances and shots in the box allowed even when our results early season results were flattering to deceive.

      I would so love to have a drink with the man and hear what he really thinks.

    1. I actually can’t remember: do you need to give the player throwing the ball in 10 yards? I didn’t think so. So what exactly did Sanchez do wrong? Like, really??? Did he get booked for simulation? If so, that’s a ridiculous decision. Of course he was making a meal of it, but it hardly warranted a booking, and anyway, Fuchs quite obviously threw the ball as hard as he could in the direction of his face. Pretty sure deliberately attempting to injure a player is always a no-no, regardless of how you do it. I’m genuinely puzzled by the whole incident.

      1. I agree Sanchez made a meal of it but I don’t think it was a booking either considering that a player had blatantly thrown a ball full force at his face. At a stretch by the letter of the law simulation is supposed to lead to a booking (ha!) so fine,whatever, but how can you not book the guy who throws the ball full force deliberately at his face if you’re going the no nonsense route?
        Similarly puzzled.

        1. It seemed to me that the ref was indicating to Alexis that he told him to move back and because he wasn’t obeyed Alexis was booked.

          It makes a change to see us disrupting play and making a meal of it. Even if the ref wasn’t having it, he couldn’t do much about it at all. Except book Alexis, which I suppose he would see as a fair trade. A booking for 3 points.

          However, it is dangerous to throw the ball full force at someone’s face and at the least deserves a booking. The worst though was the kick in Giroud’s back which should have been red because it was very deliberate and very dangerous. I’m glad we won, but I’m also glad Leicester lost, and to an own goal like that.

    2. Yeah, I’d really like an explanation on that sequence of events. As far as I know, unlike free kicks, there’s no minimum distance you have to give the thrower. You’re free to stand anywhere you want as long as you’re in the field of play. If you ask me, Alexis was being smart by “guarding” the passer and trying to put him off. It strikes me that if you can put off a player who’s trying to throw long into your penalty area, why not do it? Especially since they almost scored off a long throw earlier in the game.

      And Fuchs very clearly deliberately threw the ball at Alexis’ face. At the very least that hast to fall under unsportsmanlike conduct and could be easily interpreted as violent conduct, since it was deliberate. No foul and no card?! Do that at an NBA game and I can just about guarantee a bench clearing brawl.

      1. Judging from Wenger’s post match comments, there is a minimum distance that you have to give on a throw-in. It still doesn’t explain why it’s acceptable to throw the ball at a player’s head from three feet.

      2. Tee, the commentary on that was the worst, too. The color commentator not only affirmed that the yellow for Sanchez was the right call in his mind but that he’d have thrown the ball in his face too if given the chance. Football can be so backwardly moralistic. Apparently, it’s ok to throw the ball in someone’s face if they’re being annoying. But, it’s a disgrace to the game if you fall down just a little too late after the ball smashes into your nose. I’m here to tell you, getting hit in the nose hurts and it does take a few seconds to fully set in. Pain fibers are unmyelinated, so they conduct impulses much slower than our sensory nerves. Pain comes after you feel the ball strike you.

        Meanwhile, Giroud studs in the small of the back which we are not talking about.

        1. Hey doc, you may not like what the color commentator had to say about it but I bet you won’t hear him giving his opinion on medical issues 🙂

          Would you then punish a player for kicking the ball into another player and posibly hitting him in the face if you though he might’ve done it on purpose, if it was done from a free kick , a corner or open play?

          1. There’s annoying and there’s illegally obstructing you from doing what it takes to get your objectives met.

            I would throw the ball in of a defenders back if he was too tight on one of my players and his back was turned to me.
            Ref’s never had a problem with that either.

          2. The medical issue is relevant not just here but in all the “late reaction” arguments. Unless someone takes your leg off, it takes a second or two to really feel the pain. The nose in particular is very sensitive. Maybe Alexis was milking it but I’ve seen far worse, as have you I’m sure. Fuchs was clearly in the wrong to intentionally hurl the ball at him, as would any player from a free kick or corner if they deliberately aim for the opponent’s head.

            It’s pretty amazing how after months of complaining about softness and a lack of desire in our players that when we finally get a performance like that out of them, the reaction to it, even here, is to criticise and take sides against them.

          3. Who’s taking sides against our guys?
            Certainly not me.
            Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough by trying to be a bit sarcastic so let me explain,

            Alexis was time wasting and anyone implying a professional footballer doesn’t know the basic rules is off the mark.
            What Alexis did by blocking Fuchs path was cynical and professional under the circumstances.
            Fabregas was our last player who did things like that and I loved it.

            What Fuchs did was also professional and this type of thing was exactly why Leicester won the league last year.
            Anyone having a problem with it should switch to playing chess perhaps.
            People who think Alexis was just standing his ground ignorant of the rules ( Arsene),should perhaps rewatch the incident again.
            He’s backing up as the ref calls on him and than steps up to the line to block the throw.

            Same principle applies as when a player wants to take a quick free kick and the opposition player sticks out a leg to prevent it from happening.
            It’s the sticking out of the keg that earns him a yellow and not being too close to the ball.
            Same with Alexis. It was the bobbin and weavin, in and out that got him the yellow,
            What Alexis and Fuchs both did was the reason one won the title last season and the other won’t be with Arsenal the next, they are both winners.

  14. Shocking management from AW tonight. I get that he probably needed to change his team given the game we just came through and the big games ahead. But…

    1. Even if you think he’s a good player (which I don’t, though I acknowledge this season he’s clearly worked hard to improve his game) Walcott isn’t going to work in a 3-4-3 any time soon, as (a) he can’t really play well as a center forward, at least not anywhere close to consistently, and (b) the wide forwards in this system really need to be creative, especially when the midfield two consists of Xhaka and Coquelin, and the Ox isn’t out there as a wing back who can create on the dribble. When you add in the fact that Leicester were always going to sit back and defend in numbers deep in their own area, it made no sense to start with the front 3 he did. Plus, though I think Sanchez CAN play as a CF, and can do so even against deep lying defenses IF he’s in top form in the position like he was in the fall, he’s not in top form, and he hasn’t played the position for weeks, and hasn’t played it consistently for months. So tonight was not the night to switch things up so radically, especially with Theo in the team, who for long periods of time (even in his good games) makes it look like we’re playing with one fewer player on the pitch.

    2. We actually started decently well, and I felt that, in midfield and defense, we had a good first half. We’ve certainly seen worse first halves from the team this season. But it was clear from about minute 10 that we were going to struggle mightily to break them down without more of a forward presence in there. I’m not Giroud’s biggest fan, but this game was crying out for him. And if he needed a rest (which he probably didn’t), why not start with Welbeck over Walcott? And why not bring Giroud on in the 55th minute, when, again, it was clear our attack needed different options? We were going nowhere around the penalty area, Theo was largely anonymous, and Sanchez was having a very off game. Yet Wenger waits and waits and waits.

    3. Again, I think we started ok, and got progressively worse as the game went on. Maybe some of that was fatigue after Sunday, but arguably a lot of it was nerves and lack of confidence settling back in, as we struggled to create chances, you could see the team running out of ideas as the time ran out, and could hear the crowd getting restless. If Wenger had been proactive with his subs, (a) they would have had more time to make an impact, instead of being thrown on when we were desperate and the game was frantic, and (b) they would have come into a team who were looking ok and just needed a bit of cutting edge around the box. In this regard, Giroud and Ramsey for Walcott and Coquelin (or maybe keeping Walcott on and taking off a defender), seemed the obvious ones. Yet Wenger brings Welbeck on for Gibbs first, keeping Sanchez at CF where he’d struggled all night. What the heck was the point of that? No problem with Welbeck, but why was that the first move, and again, why did it take so bloody long for Wenger to do anything? We got away with it, but let’s not kid ourselves: we were very, very, very, very lucky.

    4. I though Coquelin started off pretty badly, and grew into the game as his ball-winning came to the fore. But boy oh boy is his ability on the ball limited! Again, after about minute 45, wasn’t it obvious that he should be sacrificed for more attacking guile and impetus?

    5. The Ox was our best attacking player in the last two games. I get that he had a bit of a knock, but if he was good enough to be on the bench, then surely he was good enough to come on for the last half hour??

    6. In the end, Wenger’s criminal lack of game management almost cost us 2 points. Not for the first time.

    1. Swing and a miss from you on this analysis, pfo. Arsenal dominated this game and they did that because the players were really up for this a battled immensely, but also because the team was set up well. You need a lot of speed in the team against Leicester and with the players who came in that’s what we got. The foxes had not time to play out because they were always being harassed, and as a consequence hardly had a shot from open play. That happened because the boss preferred more mobility ogpver technique in this game. The result was that they retreated further and further back and we kept getting looks against them here and there. None were great looks but they are an excellent defensive team. Most importantly dpthough the back door stayed shut and the goal was justice served in my view, a win for the better team on the night. It may have been a lucky bounce but it came on the heels of lots of similar and dangerous situations. Leicester played with fire staying so far back and ckneding all that territory and they got burned.

      I thought the subs were right on. Why upend a game you’re dominating?Welbeck gives some more presence without sacrificing Gibbs speed or work ethic and Giroud came on late as he should in the plan B role that I think he is made for.

      I’d also draw your attention to the shift Ozil put in without the ball. He gets raked over coals when he slacks so let’s also notice when he really works back, like he did tonight.

      1. 1. Smugly patronizing as ever, my friend. Feel free to disagree with me, but why the need to belittle my opinions?
        2. Why do you think my attention needs to be drawn to Ozil putting in a shift? I freakin love Ozil, and I completely agree with you about the shift he put in, both with and without the ball. Thought he was our best player going forward, after Xhaka (admittedly not saying much today).
        3. We got the goal so in the end when that happens you can always say Wenger’s decisions were justified, but I don’t think this was one of those games where it looked like it was only a matter of time before we scored. As I said, I think we started off looking good, but the lack of presence in the box (Sanchez was dropping deep too much, and anyway, he’s not going to win many headers in the box against a couple of Huth-sized giants) meant there was something fundamentally off in our attack and we got worse and worse as the second half wore on. Of course they were ceding lots of ground to us, so in that, minimal sense, we were “dominating” (we deserve some credit for pushing them back, but it was clear that their tactic was to sit deep, as they typically do, especially under Shakespeare). But with 10 minutes left it looked like it was either going to end with a) one moment of magic out of nothing, b) one bad mistake/fluke, or c) a 0-0 draw. In the end, we got lucky with b). The subs were fine, they just needed to be earlier, particularly Giroud and Ramsey (and if Ox was fit, he should have been on, given his recent form).

        1. Was “swing and a miss” over the line? I’ve done much worse before I’m sure. At any rate, I thought your take was wildly in contradiction with what I saw. I saw our team nullify the opposition’s biggest strength first and foremost for 90 minutes and that’s pretty impressive after folding like underbaked cupcakes for most of 2017. I don’t care if the offense looked awkward. This team will score goals on set pieces or sheer individual talent, or luck. If we can keep the back door closed, that is our ticket.

          I think what annoyed me most about your take is not only the over the top commentary about the game management but the sense that you missed the essence of how the game played out. Perhaps we’re too keyed in on the offensive side because we expect champagne football every time out. On the official club survey, something like 60% of fans thought we’d win by 2 clear goals. That’s just sheer optimism and fantasy.

          1. Yeah, I was responding to the swing and a miss comment, which just strikes me as smug and condescending. I’m not crying into my pillow at night because some stranger ridicules my views on football, but I think it was unnecessarily rude, so I pointed out as much. And you saying you’ve done much worse before is hardly an adequate defense, is it? More pertinent is that I’VE done much worse, so to avoid being a hypocrite I should let it go.

            And hey, I guess I should be honored. Last time you addressed me directly, you informed me that reading and responding to my comments was a waste of your time, since I clearly didn’t put adequate time and effort into them for them to achieve the base level of thoughtfulness required for substantive dialogue on such matters (or words to that effect).

          2. Not surprisingly, I don’t think I “missed the essence of how the game played out,” and to me it’s your view that seems to wildly contradict what was there before my eyes. Praising our newfound defensive solidity and ability to win in an ugly/scrappy manner is a red herring. I didn’t complain about playing the extra central defender, I acknowledged that we needed to rest players given our schedule, etc. I didn’t demand champagne football or lots of goals. I said I thought we looked pretty good in defense and midfield. My complaint was simply that as the match wore on, we got worse, and we did so because the pressure and frustration of not scoring got higher, and that happened because there was a pretty obvious (to me) disfunction to our attack, due to Walcott being on the pitch and Alexis playing in a role he’s rarely occupied for months (and doing a pretty poor job of playing that role, not just in his giveaways, but in not actually being in the box and making typical CF runs).

            The point is not that we were terrible or that we don’t deserve praise for aspects of our game, like defensive solidity (most of the time). The point is that there was a clearly correctable problem in our attack that Wenger didn’t really attempt to address until 15 minutes before the end, which is often too little time to make an impact. And it looked (to me!) to be too little time in this game, barring a big slice of luck. We got luck in the end. That doesn’t absolve Wenger of his poor game management.

            As far as I can tell, you chiefly dispute two factual claims I’m making:
            1. That we didn’t look much like scoring as the second half wore on, and therefore were seriously playing with fire in a must win home game for our top 4 chances.
            2. That the way we set up in attack, with Walcott, didn’t really serve any particular tactical purpose (in this I agree with joshuad’s views, below). Certainly having him there (and, e.g, putting Welbeck on for Gibbs when he did) didn’t play some crucial role in our defensive strategy–to press and harass them high–without which (e.g. if Giroud had been on 15 minutes earlier, even) Leicester would likely have had way more dangerous attacking play in our final third thus likely leading to us conceding.

            I think if I’m right about those two claims, then it’s not a big step to conclude that (not for the first time) Wenger’s game management was puzzling and poor, and could well have cost us crucial points. Not surprisingly, I don’t think you’ve offered much in the way of convincing reasons to doubt those two points. But obviously this is just where we’ll have to agree to disagree. Maybe a late goal from our pressure always looked on the cards, and I was just blind to the “essence of how the game played out” because I craved champagne football. Maybe Theo (and Coquelin, etc) staying on the pitch until 15 minutes to go was crucial to our defensive game plan, without which we would have lost. I don’t see it, personally, but there’s not much more I can say on the matter.

    2. “Shocking management”, the opening line of your comment said. It made me remember that we played today (busy busy busy), and before reading any more I headed straight to the Guardian site for the report on the match — which we won. Against the champions. Who had been on a hot streak since Ranieri left. Who are not the easist of teams to beat. Describing his team and game decision-making as shocking management is way OTT.

      I criticise Wenger plenty, but your criticism of him for playing Walcott, our second top scorer, is just bizarre. There’s plenty to question in Wenger tactically but that level of forensic, tactical detail you supposedly possess versus his knowledge of players he sees in training every day just… came out all wrong for me. Seems like Arsene did nothing right for you. Nothing at all. In a game Arsenal won.

      BTW, you’re more likely to get goals out of Sanchez and Walcott, than out of Welbeck — that nicely scuplted hunk of uselessness.

      1. Dude, YOU DIDN’T EVEN WATCH THE GAME. “Shocking” might have been hyperbole, but “strange, bad decisions that exacerbated the difficulty of an already tricky game and which contributed to an overall very poor attacking display in a must-win home game that we were ultimately VERY lucky to win” pretty much sums up my thoughts, and I stand by that opinion.

        If you want to disagree, fine, but first have the decency of watching the game before acting like you’re in a position to sit on your high horse and denounce my opinion OF A GAME I ACTUALLY WATCHED.

        PS I love Wenger. Still love Wenger. At the point, of course the result was all that mattered. And tonight was nowhere near our worst display of the season or his worst managerial performance. But it was yet another example of how he’s struggled mightily all season (and last) to take a deep and talented squad and from them pick a team who can perform game in, game out at the consistently high level required to be near the top of the PL.

        1. PPS You say, “Seems like Arsene did nothing right for you. Nothing at all.”

          This is just an argument from silence. Since I didn’t make a long list of every good and bad thing I thought Wenger did in this game, but instead chose to focus on a couple of criticisms I had, you infer from that that I think he did nothing right? That doesn’t follow. And when did I claim to possess “forensic, tactical detail[ed knowledge]”? I just laid out my reasons why I don’t think Walcott was likely going to be effective against Leicester tonight, and in the end, he proved not to be. I don’t think those reasons were especially complex, original, or esoteric. Maybe they’re wrong, and in fact it was a brilliant masterstroke to play Theo and crucial to our ultimate victory. They’re just one guy’s opinions.

          But my main beef was not with starting Walcott per se (I wouldn’t have done it, but hey ho), but with keeping him and Coquelin on so long when it was clear what we were doing in attack wasn’t working particularly well (that’s where Doc and I disagree; he thinks we were dominating and looking dangerous for most of the second half, apparently; that wasn’t my impression).

        2. I think in the cold light of day if/when you go back over the assessment (“shocking management” and “criminal lack of game management”), you will see that it was overwrought.

          The strength of the negativity of the assessment sits rather awkwardly with the actual result, and, truth be told, every other account I’ve read of it. That remains true even if you watched the game and I did not.

          Look Arsene made a significant tactical change and we’ve won three on the spin. That’s not to be minimised. We are also, it would seem, harder to beat, and harder to score goals against. All of that is on the coach. BTW, it doesn’t change my view that he’s done, can’t take Arsenal any further forward in the medium to long term, and we need a change. But, as we say in the Caribbean, let’s give Jack his jacket.

          Wenger IS slow to make substitutions. He IS a reactive coach. But, all things considered, the assessment was still overly harsh, in my view.

    3. Pfo.

      A few observations (which might be right or wrong)

      It seemed to me that rather than a 3-4-3, we were playing more like a 3-5-2 because Ozil was playing deeper (at least once Leicester ceded that space) with Walcott and Alexis both pushing up and pressing the Leicester back line, and then relying on the wingbacks (and Ozil in a free role) to provide an outlet.

      Bellerin especially was up high in and around the box with Walcott occupying the Leicester defense. Walcott was at times in the right back spot covering for (or providing extra cover to) Bellerin.

      We might have had a more focal point with Giroud in there, but I think that would just have meant Leicester pushing up because Giroud doesn’t threaten to get behind them and they would be happier to make it about dealing with crosses and a physical battle.

      Walcott never looks the most involved, but I thought he presented a real threat to Leicester.

      Coquelin was said to have a bad game but I think that’s unfair. He has his limitations, but he was doing his job. Win the ball back early if possible and give it to someone else (and shoot if left open) or cover the back line.

      It was Alexis who had a bad game and since he was the spearhead, I think that stunted our attack. Affecting the buildup with simple passes strangely going astray.

      As for substitutions. I think the idea was to add another attacker. (Something Wenger has done since forever) without, at the time, sacrificing the speed. I’m guessing he was still worried about a counter attack, especially with a shift to a back 4. (or maybe that was just me) Hence Welbeck and not Ramsey or Giroud first up. It could have been the Ox, or even Iwobi I suppose, but Welbeck does what’s needed and adds some size too while Ox gets to rest more.

      I think the reason you’re so harsh on Wenger and the subs (or their timing) is that you’re imagining us to be so much better than this. But during the game, I was imagining how in our desperation to get a goal, we’ll end up conceding to Mahrez or Vardy and make a victory near impossible. Substitute Coquelin at halftime? No way man. We’re not at our peak yet, and weren’t at our peak physically. Maybe if we can keep winning, in a couple of weeks we can be more expansive. For now, I was satisfied with the way we were going about this.

      1. Thanks, Shard, for your reasonable (and polite) thoughts. I few responses:

        1. I don’t think it was really a 3-5-2, as Ozil pretty clearly looked to me to be operating from the left flank, with license to roam, as opposed to in a central playmaking role, but obviously the differences between the two formations are subtle and they’re likely to blend into each other in any given match.

        2. You and Doc seem to think Walcott’s presence played a crucial role in our defensive strategy to nullify Leicester’s counterattack. This is an interesting theory, but strikes me as grasping at straws, since a) Walcott is a forward and didn’t look to have any special defensive task, b) Leicester are hardly Bayern Munich, or even Leicester 2015-16, and c) they pretty much always play deep, so it’s not like we needed Walcott to “push them back”.

        3. As I said, I think Coquelin started bad but got better, making some good interceptions in the second half. But his limitations when we have the ball, and how they affect our buildup, are noticeable. As you and Doc point out, since we’ve already sacrificed one attacker for an extra defender in this system, we should expect our offensive fluidity to suffer a bit, but that seems all the more reason to not have an offensive passenger on the pitch like Coquelin if we can help it. And again, it strikes me as giving Leicester too much respect to suggest that Coquelin’s presence was necessary to prevent them from scoring. It’s not like we fell apart defensively against a very good City side with Ramsey and Xhaka in there (they did score from one very direct counter, but I very much doubt Coquelin would have been able to prevent that if he’d been on the pitch), so why would subbing in Ramsey for Coquelin at 45 or 55 minutes have spelt calamity here? We’re at home, they’re playing very deep, a loss would have been bad, but so too would a 0-0 draw, given that we need to win every game left (or come pretty darn close) to have any chance of top 4 and we’ve got several harder games still ahead.

        1. Ramsey and Welbz more than most probably need to have their minutes managed carefully, and if it weren’t so, maybe we might have seen them come on earlier or even start.

          I still stand by what I said in regards to the game though and being secure and pressing. In addition, there’s an inherent risk in switching things up when you are looking decent, which must be considered. There’s no ‘right’ call on this. It’s mostly based on gut and experience.

          We’ve tended to score some late goals this season and I don’t think that can all be attributed to luck. (More likely better fitness, and MAYBE, that’s a result of managing the minutes better?)

          The manner of the goal was lucky, and Leicester are a good defensive team. But I didn’t feel like the goal wouldn’t come. We were getting behind them with semi regularity by that point, and were just lacking the right cross, or the right connection. It just needed one moment, and as it turned out, our Cb, and later LB got up to provide it. Lucky goal, but I don’t think it was a lucky result.

          Oh also. Just an observation. We’re definitely much better on set pieces these days, even in attack. Apparently Ozil said he’s never worked with a coach as obsessed with practicing set pieces as Wenger. A big change from the times when Arteta and co apparently asked for more set piece training.

          1. You say:
            “The manner of the goal was lucky, and Leicester are a good defensive team. But I didn’t feel like the goal wouldn’t come. We were getting behind them with semi regularity by that point, and were just lacking the right cross, or the right connection. It just needed one moment, and as it turned out, our Cb, and later LB got up to provide it.”

            So here there’s just a fundamental difference of opinion as to what we were watching. One or both of us needs to go back and watch the last quarter of that match, because to me we didn’t look especially dangerous at all (of course with so much possession you’re bound to have one or two half-chances, and sometimes they’ll go in, but more often they won’t (hence the term, “half chance”)).

            So I concede that if we were looking as comfortable in defense, and threatening in attack, as you suggest, then it’s over the top of me to criticize Arsene for the lateness of his subs. It all just depends on whose description of what was in fact going on is faithful to reality. Nothing more to say here.

  15. Ugly and gawdawful as it was, we should all grateful for the W.

    Yes, we’ll need an almost impossible about turn in form to get anything from S%&rs on Sunday but 3 points against a much improved title holder? Please sir, may I have some more?

    1. Why was it so ugly and gawdawful for people? Andrew/Arseblog said the same after the game. I watched the whole thing and thought it was beautiful. It had everything we’ve been crying out for: a change of system, grit, determination, teamwork, a competent looking midfield, cohesive defending… look, you take away an attacker and add a defender, the team’s not going to look as good going forward. You had Gibbs and Coquelin exchanging passes in the final 3rd. You pay a price for the solidity they provided on the other side of the ball.

      1. I don’t quite understand some of the very negative assessments of the game. Firstly, it’s a midweek game between an FA Cup semifinal against ManShitty which went to extra time and the f***ing North London Derby. There was bound to be some rotation so I don’t mind the lineup changes. Walcott might not have the most all around game but he does have a knack for scoring goals, Gibbs as a former winger did a decent job as a wingback, Coq wasn’t fluent but won the ball well and stopped some dangerous looking counters at source, and Bellerin looked like a refreshed player. And frankly, I think Nacho is the best player for the left sided defender of a three.

        Defensively, we did as well as we have in a long time in terms of restricting their chances, especially from counterattacks.

        And in attack, the approach play was good but it was one of those games where the final pass was missing. We had 276 attacking third passes to Leicester’s 80 and 41 passes into the penalty area to just 7. We almost doubled their shots. No, it wasn’t close to our best game of the season but it is a significant improvement over the previous couple of months.

      2. I don’t quite understand some of the very negative assessments of the game. Firstly, it’s a midweek game between an FA Cup semifinal against ManShitty which went to extra time and the f***ing North London Derby. There was bound to be some rotation so I don’t mind the lineup changes. Walcott might not have the most all around game but he does have a knack for scoring goals, Gibbs as a former winger did a decent job as a wingback, Coq wasn’t fluent but won the ball well and stopped some dangerous looking counters at source, and Bellerin looked like a refreshed player. And frankly, I think Nacho is the best player for the left sided defender of a three.

        Defensively, we did as well as we have in a long time in terms of restricting their chances, especially from counterattacks.

        And in attack, the approach play was good but it was one of those games where the final pass was missing. We had 276 attacking third passes to Leicester’s 80 and 41 passes into the penalty area to just 7. We almost doubled their shots. No, it wasn’t close to our best game of the season but it is a significant improvement over the previous couple of months.

      3. Yes exactly. It wasn’t ugly at all. It was a game we controlled, but couldn’t provide the final flourish to. Mitigating factors in that are the extra time on Sunday, and the rotation because of it (and Spurs up next). Also, Alexis was awful in this game. I know we’re not allowed to criticise him giving the ball away, but there’s giving it away, and then there’s what he was doing all day.

        If you sacrifice an attacker for a defender, and then your prime attacker is playing poorly, then I don’t see why the manager should get it in the neck for the team not looking great going forward.

        I thought Wenger played it right. We needed to not concede first and foremost. Even when he switched to a back 4 because he wanted to add an attacker, I was worried we might concede.

        But maybe the switch to the back 3 has concentrated the player’s minds more as Wenger says because even then, and even with Coquelin replaced by Ramsey, we looked solid.

        And although Walcott was mostly ineffective, his and Bellerin’s speed and understanding helped us down the flank defensively and helped close them down early. He was also quite often in a position to punish Leicester.

        1. Why aren’t we allowed to criticize Alexis?
          I don’t get it.
          On any top team he would’ve been subbed out long before he got a chance to take one in the face from the throw in.

          As for” mitigating circumstances ” , aren’t there always plenty of those if you lower your expectations enough, which Arsene has done over the years.

          Transfers are very tricky and we can’t start the season strongly because our best players usually are either too tired or not fit from the internationals, then the CL and domestic cup competitions come around and we don’t have enough rest between games and inevitably one or two of our key players get injured, then we get knocked out of those and we have too much time between games and players lose sharpness, and then finally we need to make the run for the top four so only results count and the performance becomes secondary.

          In between all these “mitigating circumstances ” there are about half a dozen of games where Arsenal are playing scintillating football these days or anything remotely resembling that.

          Move along, nothing to see here. Roll on another two years please.

          1. Everything’s a referendum on Wenger’s contract isn’t it?

            I liked what I saw from us precisely because we did well without being scintillating. I saw a team which has been struggling take control of a game and eventually succeed in breaking down a stubborn and tough opponent. I also saw a certain logic in the starting lineups and the subs.

            If you disagree, fair enough. But why bring up all the things that are supposed to be always wrong with Arsenal or Wenger and crib again about the possibility of him staying? What a fun way to live. Count me out.

          2. Shard’s in the right. I don’t care who the manager is if the players put in a shift like that. It’s been missing for far too long but finally the team is playing together again and looking like we can beat anyone. I think Tom and a few others are worried that this will mean Wenger will stay and that we’ll have to endure another season like this. It’s a legitimate fear. At the same time, it’s ridiculous to discredit the players and the performance because you’re afraid it will mean the manager will stay.

            Alexis was himself. It was completely predictable, all of it, and if his shot that cannoned back off the crossbar goes in I don’t think anyone’s talking about his wastefulness or about his throw-in shenanigans. All he does is score goals.

          3. Alexis was most certainly NOT himself! At least in the first half, he was WAY worse than his usual level. I think, in that first half at least, he was as bad as he’s ever been for us. He was just having a stinker. It happens to every player. No reason to substitute him, since he could always come up with a matchwinning moment (if we were Bayern or Barca or Real we could afford to sub him, because we’d have someone of similar quality on the bench, but we’re not, and we don’t).

            But there’s equally no reason to sugarcoat what was a wretched display from him, as if literally NOTHING he does on a football pitch is ever open to criticism from the fans. That kind of absurd hero worship doesn’t serve any purpose.

            PS If that shot goes in at the end of the first half I can GUARANTEE you I’d have pointed out on here that that goal doesn’t change the fact that he was wretched the rest of the time. But then maybe I’m just a born curmudgeon…

  16. Changing the subject, but this is probably the best place for intelligent discussion on Arsenal.

    Did anyone see the news about ESPN laying off about 100 people including maybe 50 on air personalities? After laying off 300 people in 2015. Apparently they’ve lost about 10 million subscribers despite paying $24 billion dollars for NFL/NBA/college football. The sports broadcasting ATM has stopped printing money as people have shifted to online viewing.

    I assume the same thing will come to the Premier League and filter down to the teams in 2019 when it’s time for a new deal. Will teams go into administration because of their wage bill? Will Wenger go down like Julian Robertson, who, by betting against the tech bubble too early, proved the maxim that “the market can stay wrong longer than you can stay solvent”.

    1. Hmm.. My guess is that this won’t happen with the PL yet. The fact is that TV subscriptions aren’t saturated or maximised in Asia (and probably) Africa. There must be some leeway in there for more money to be squeezed from the public in China, India, Indonesia (all big populations). The US is probably still a growing market for them as well.

      I reckon the only thing that will derail the PL’s money making potential right now is if they keep providing us a seemingly tainted product with their awful refereeing and lack of transparency in that regard. Or maybe that’s just me being optimistic.

      But I know I’ve come close to quitting the PL, and actually have reduced how much I watch, instead watching the Italian, Spanish or German leagues, in large part, because of it. I don’t think Asians or Africans are as reluctant to call out corruption as the English are when it comes to their refs, and that the American public don’t like games being decided by the refs rather than the players.

      Kroenke and Liverpool’s owners had pushed for more online viewing in the past, so clubs can encash on that directly. Maybe eventually some form of that model will come in, meaning the big clubs will again open up a gap on the smaller clubs.

      1. I don’t know. I’ve met people with Kodi boxes that you’d never expect. Tech naive grandmothers, successful physicians. Cable companies have lost a lot of goodwill by dint of their abuse of their mono/duo-poly position. Many people see it less as stealing and more as striking back at someone who is exploiting you.

        I can’t imagine the willingness to pay for soccer is that much higher in the second world (China/India/Indonesia) when other forms of IP are ruthlessly stolen. (At least in China).

        1. At least in India, businesses are exerting greater influence on the Indian govt to ban or block these sources. Also, the majority of people are still new (or not even exposed to) to the workings of the internet and tv still dominates. Even sometimes in the urban households. I’m sure it will change.

          But I think the PL and clubs will have to do more local outreach programs. Of which tours are a part. The PL knows it too, which is why they came up with a ridiculous 39th game plan.

          But I can imagine investments in stadia and teams (Atletico Madrid already have a team in the 3 months long Indian Super League. And those clubs will be playing in the official Indian League now) Tours, and maybe academies opening up to keep or spark interest. If they can find a good local player, the nation’s interest will shoot up dramatically (The NBA really wants this with India right now)

          People may not pay that much more for football, but there are a lot of people to pay for it. I still see more potential, even with the advent of the internet, for the bubble to not burst just yet.

  17. arsenal got a needed win. the boys looked like they’re beginning to understand the nuances of playing with three central defenders. unlike most, i thought gibbs could play the left wing back and i thought he had a fine game. coquelin brought accurate energy and dynamism to the midfield. his early transition pressure made it difficult for leicester city to establish any possession. when he went off, that went away. long balls are not his forte. if he keeps it on the ground and less than 20 yards, he’s fine. arsenal were dominant for the first hour, albeit with no cutting edge. prophetically, xhaka’s growing into his role and seems more comfortable with the new formation.

    i think many decisions wenger makes are simply arbitrary ideas. this implies that, in some games, he doesn’t respect situations but rather does what he wants. is this laudable? i don’t think arsenal are currently good enough for him to not respect the disposition of any opponent.
    -i didn’t understand the decision to play walcott when everyone knows leicester are a team that will defend deep and look to counter; this game had giroud written all over it. it seems as if wenger simply decided that he wanted theo to get game time today with absolutely no respect for how leicester predictably play.
    -i didn’t understand the welbeck for gibbs substitution. that change didn’t appear to affect the game in a positive way for arsenal. likewise, i couldn’t imagine how welbeck would have made a contribution that gibbs was showing an inability on the day. it seems like wenger simply decided that he should take off a defender for an attacker with no real live context except a theory that suggests a striker would more likely score a goal than a defender.
    -alexis was uncharacteristically bad today. he’s not a center forward and has recently admitted to watching videos to try and learn the role. for wenger to play alexis there with no recent form and no credible history as a center forward in a game that arsenal needed to win also seems disrespectful, not only to what’s required to play center forward but to alexis’ lack of experience there. it seems like alexis wasn’t prepared to play there and the added stress of playing an unfamiliar position combined with his desperation to win showed in his lack-luster performance on the day.

    1. When you compare what Gibbs does to what Monreal does, Gibbs is not nearly as good. When going forward he is often either ponderous or rushes a cross to no one. IMO he doesn’t contribute much consisten quality going forward so I could understand Welbeck coming on to try to push something to happen. Gibbs is an ok backup, but I have never understood that small minority of people who always big up Gibbs as if all he needs is more playing time. He has hit his plateau a while ago, and he is what he is. People always defend him by saying he came up as a winger so he is good going forward. Sorry I don’t see it. I remember when we first signed Monreal and I saw him connecting on crosses and cut backs and I thought “yea that’s what a good LB should be doing”

      1. no doubt, monreal is a better option but he’s a spanish international and better than most left backs in the premier league. that doesn’t mean that gibbs is garbage. i think he got forward to good effect yesterday. the problem is we didn’t have a center forward.

        1. This. He got behind their defense a few times early on but he had no one to aim at in the box. This is when we knew it was going to be a long evening.

  18. does wenger really disrespect the game? i think that might be a stretch. what i do believe is that he has a tremendous amount of belief in his players. is this a good thing? seriously, they’ve let him down so often.

    what i absolutely love is the last part of the quote where wenger alludes to giving the players something different to focus on being a point for the formation change. i must say it again, i absolutely love that! what other manager would change the formation with the intent of keeping the players from getting bored in mind? it totally makes sense to me. i even mentioned it when a few threads back when the formation initially changed. even though i understand it, if i were a coach, would i have the audacity to do it? regardless, the players seem to be re-energized by the change, especially in the first half yesterday. long may it continue.

  19. After checking it looks like a player has to stay 2 metres from the touchline on a throw in. The player is supposed to be warned and, if they continue to infringe, booked with play restarting with a throw.

    I don’t think Sanchez was given a warning by the ref and I’m not sure if he was eventually booked for infringement or simulation.
    I can accept the booking as he was breaking the rules (if the card was for infringement) but I still think fuchs should have been booked for what he did.

    I only watched the second half and while I’m not a tactics and formation person the possession we had at least seemed purposeful as opposed to sterile and once we got to the penalty area there was usually an attempt made at a final killer ball. We were controlling possession, creating chances (half chances) and looked mostly safe and switched on when Leicester launched a counter attack.

    1. affirmative. you are required to be two meters away from the touch line on throw-ins. this allows the thrower to follow through with his throw. if his momentum brings him onto the pitch, that’s allowed as long as he doesn’t step onto the field with the ball in his hand. the 2-meter rule allows him the space to follow through without worrying about a collision with a player on the pitch.

      personally, i had no problem with fuchs hitting alexis in the face with the ball. i’ve never done it but i’ve seen it done several times. alexis knew he was violating the space. if he did it once, okay. however, alexis continued to do it. it’s like continually infringing on the 10 meter distance on a free kick. sometimes a player will deliberately kick the ball at someone too close to highlight their infringement on the ten meter distance. the referee often blows the whistle and books the offender. a similar thing happened yesterday. we just don’t see players frequently violate that law because it’s not very effective; certainly not enough to warrant getting hit in the face and picking up a yellow card. i didn’t have a problem with the referee cautioning alexis.

      1. Maybe I’m just too legalistic, but I have to heartily disagree with the notion that it’s ok to throw the ball at Sahcnez’s face. Firstly, while unlikely, you could cause a serious enough injury to require surgery such as a fractured nose. Second, Sanchez doing something illegal is not justification for violent retaliation. And throwing the ball at someone’s head is meant to cause physical discomfort or pain, so even though his intent wasn’t to injure, it is violent. In any type of social interaction, when is it ever ok to respond with actual physical escalation?

        1. first, like you said, it’s unlikely to cause any significant injury. second, i don’t see fuchs’ actions as a violent retaliation. it was more of an opportunity. also, i wouldn’t exactly consider a contested football match a social interaction.

          everyone knows that you can get hit like that. that’s why most players don’t do it. to get a free, or cheap, shot at a player who’s being a big, fleshy penis is epic. i bet both sets of players got a laugh watching the video replay today.

    2. …however, i didn’t know that the restart was supposed to be a throw; i considered the restart the same as any other restart for a violation on the pitch, a free kick. i think the referee awarded a free kick yesterday but i’m not sure. it was embarrassing for alexis to do what he did. in fact, during the melee, i seem to remember petr cech going over to alexis to scold him about it implying that “now, instead of defending a throw, we have to defend a free kick, you dumbass”.

      1. I thought Cech was taking issue with the ref for not booking Fuchs and then told Alexis to stay down till Cech got back and organised the defense. But maybe you’re right.

        Fuchs threw the ball at Sanchez at full force with the express intent of, or at least disregard for, it causing injury. I’ve seen this happen before. I think it happened with Robbie Fowler and Cygan once in an Arsenal game. But he just hit it off his head back into throw to complain to the ref. Not threw a fastball that could cause a broken nose. Alexis was wrong and deserved his booking for it. But Fuchs deserved a booking too.

        On the note of embarrassing though. Alexis delayed and disrupted a game that we were leading in stoppage time. His punishment was a cut lip and a yellow card. His reward was 3 points. Do you think he cares? If it was our opponents doing it, we’d be just as frustrated and the refs would be just as impotent, and maybe even less sympathetic to us. Some of us might even admire this commitment to winning.

        It’s not pretty, but it shows we’ve got some of the dark arts in us, and I feel no sympathy for Leicester after they decided to welcome Giroud to the game with a running kick in the back. I hope they’re really annoyed about Alexis and the own goal.

        1. I’ve been thinking the same thing. Would also add that rather than thinking of it as ‘giving away’ a free kick, I think we ‘forced’ them to kick it. Normally it’s better, but we’ve had trouble with atrong deep throws into the box. I heard one announcer speculate that the arc is different.

  20. The debate on the predictability of Walcott being redundant in last night’s game struck a chord with me. Starting Giroud instead of Walcott wouldn’t have been the solution I don’t think. Leicester would have been able to push up higher.

    The problem, in retrospect, is having one dimensional strikers/forwards. Giroud is useless in a foot race or beating his man with a dribble but is very good, even exceptional in some other striker skill sets. Walcott, on the other hand is fleet of foot and has good movement when there’s enough space, but also can’t dribble, not big or strong enough or good at headers etc.

    Maybe when Arsenal scout players, especially forwards, they should focus solely on more well-rounded ones?
    I mean, a match fit Welbeck is so clearly a better fit for the spearhead of our attack, even though the other two are more clinical than he is.

    Of course I would bite your hand off if you offered me a one-trick pony like Robben. Every fullback knows what he wants to do but just can’t stop him. He’s that good. Walcott doesn’t even have a trick, unless you consider running really fast in a straight line a trick

    1. Sure, I totally agree that a big part of the problem is that all of our center forward options have significant limitations to their games (Lucas might potentially be the best of the lot, but he’s barely played, and barely played at CF, all year). Obviously in the end that’s also Wenger’s fault. But given the current limitations in the squad, and given our opponents, I don’t think it made much sense to start Walcott. (If we absolutely needed some pace, Welbeck could do the trick and still be more of a presence, however imperfect, in the box.) But Leicester were unlikely to push up much, since their style–certainly away from home against a big team–is to sit deep and counter. I don’t much care for Giroud, truth be told, but in this game it made sense to start him, or failing that, to bring him on with 30 minutes to go.

  21. Another thing, why are we accumulating one-paced CMs? Isn’t this detrimental to the kind of football we want to see Arsenal play?

    Xhaka, Ramsey, El neny, even Cazorla are slow. Our fastest midfielder is a DM, and definitely no longer in the first XI.

    I don’t care how skillful they are or what exquisite long passes they can make, sometimes, a lot of times, you need your CMs to go on a rampage with the ball at feet. See Yaya Toure in his prime, and even on a couple of times on Sunday.

    We bought two new CMs last year and they’re both slow and don’t have quick feet. As it is now, the Ox is the only who could play in CM and attack the opposition aggressively with the ball. But he’s too useful as a winger or wingback to shift him permanently to the middle yet.

    I don’t think we have as good a squad of midfielders as we thought he had at the start of the season

  22. It does baffle me. Against Manc who must dominate territory Wenger plays slow train Giroud. Against PTB Leicester he plays fleet footed one line artist Walcott. I have strained to the limit to understand this, with no success. All I see is the reverse. Am I dumb?

    1. Girouds acute/chronic load stats very likely ruled out participation for all but for 15-20mins in this game. Likewise Ramsey and Wellbeck were also restricted for this game. Selection is influenced by more than meets the eye.

    2. Giroud started against City to provide a direct outlet option to beat their high press and as a target for Ox in particular to find with his crosses. Having used Giroud and Wellbeck who both are short of conditioning choices were limited. With Ramsey needing a rest I guess the decision then came down to Iwobi or Walcott and Wenger went with the experienced goal scorer and some different tactics to try and break up and breakdown Leicester.

  23. In a 3:4:3 the wide forward players are tucked in, positioned more as inside forwards. Maybe that positioning does not suit Sanchez’s skill sets which invariably entails cutting in. I can imagine that playing in the ‘inside right’ instead of ‘inside left’ position would make him more direct which is desirable as the 3:4:3 demands quicker vertical transition on account of playing one man less in attack. In other words Ozil/Sanchez are interchanged in position.

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