Arsenal don’t deserve a top four finish

Sorry I haven’t been writing much but this weekend I had two mother’s days to prepare for and spent all day Saturday baking and all day Sunday eating. I made a hummingbird bundt cake for my friend’s mom and an apricot couronne for my own mom. The cake turned out a little too dense, it was my first time making it and I need to practice something once first before I make a production model. The apricot couronne, however, was pretty amazing. It was like a giant apricot glazed bearclaw. I will be making this again.

The couronne I’ve had a lot of experience making. Not experience with that exact recipe but with the idea. Basically, it’s a filled brioche dough which is somethings I’ve made a lot of. The trick is that the way you cut the dough reveals these neat layers giving textural contrast between the soft dough and the sweet insides. By exposing the filling you allow some parts of the inside to crisp up in the oven. I also absolutely loved the glaze. That’s not something I would normally do to a brioche but it works perfectly here. Marie Antoinette’s famous last words were “let them eat brioche” and I’m pretty sure what she was thinking of was this dish.

As for the Arsenal, well Saturday was a fun game wasn’t it? I mean, first off, beating Stoke in the Potteries is special. Arsenal haven’t won there since Ryan Shawcross broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg. But the best part for me was that the Stoke supporters started singing “We want you to stay, Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay” in like the third minute. Arsenal’s in 5th, Stoke’s in 13th, and these idiots couldn’t even wait until they had the match wrapped up to start singing about how they’d love to see Arsene Wenger for another two years. And then seeing the Britannia and their “famous support” empty out 20 minutes before full time was the glazing on the cake.

The other best thing that happened was “Arnie” breaking his arm. Now I’m not normally one to rejoice in physical violence visited upon another human but this is the same guy who shoved Mathieu Debuchy while he was in the air sending him crashing into the advertising hoardings and dislocating his shoulder. Seeing him take a nasty tumble and break his own arm is the very definition of karma. If you’re going to run around shoving people over, every once in a while you’re going to try to shove over a guy who is bigger than you and you’re going to break your own arm. Have I mentioned how he broke his own arm? I just want to keep mentioning that because it reminds me of how people kept saying that Ramsey “broke his leg” back when Shawcross scythed him down like an ear of corn.

Anyway, “Arnie” broke his arm and I hope Debuchy sends him flowers and a note.

Despite the win, Arsenal still aren’t back in the Champions League places. With two matches left, the Gunners need Man City to lose one or both of their final two matches and for Arsenal to win both in order to slip back into 4th. City play West Brom and Watford and I’m just not sure I see those two teams giving a stiff challenge. I think much depends on whether City come to play or not.

One reason I’m bullish on City is that they have already created 92 big chances this season. That’s 21 more than second best Tottenham. Not only that but they are also second best in big chances allowed and conceded with 34 and 17 respectively. These are exactly the numbers I expect to see from a Guardiola side: they are dominating possession with the purpose of creating top quality shots for themselves and limiting the opposition’s shots.

Meanwhile, Liverpool and Arsenal have different defensive problems. Liverpool’s problem is that they allow too many big chances while Arsenal’s problem is a combination of allowing too many shots overall and too many big chances.

I wish I had more time to get in depth on this but I have to take the most exalted daughter to school soon. So, I’m going to have to leave it there for the moment. I will just say a couple things: big chances are converted at 50%,  big chances are over 50% of a team’s goals, non-big chances are converted at about 5%, and about 12% of all shots are Big Chances. Big chances are the alpha and omega of football. When Wenger says “we didn’t create many chances” this is what he means.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Arsenal created/scored and allowed/conceded about the same number of big chances. That’s as damning a condemnation of Wenger’s “defensive” system as I can imagine. It’s also the main reason why if Arsenal were to somehow slip into 4th I’d have to say it was luck and deeply undeserved.

More on this topic in coming days.

Love your mothers!

Qq

70 Comments on Arsenal don’t deserve a top four finish

  1. I’m not completely opposed to the Europa league as a bit of a reset button, even if it is a step down. It’s a more realistic level of competition for this club and one where we won’t encounter a team that can just destroy us on the day. I think the Bayern results were a huge negative in the course of how this season unfolded and seriously damaged this team’s confidence and form. We’re not going to be likely to pass that hurdle next season either in my opinion, regardless of who is picking the team, so the alternative of going potentially deep in a lesser competition doesn’t seem so bad. Whatever system or style you’re playing, you have to believe in it, and winning games is the best way to build that belief. All the other top teams have been there and done that at some point, so if it’s our turn, so be it. It’s worth noting too that the last two winners of the PL were not in the UCL. It may be only correlation and not causation, but it’s starting to form a trend, right up there with the trend of English clubs in general being awful in the UCL.

    • Agree with this to a point, but I think you’re underestimating the degree to which being out of the UCL may hurt our chances of retaining and attracting top talent.

      1. On Alexis and Ozil, I think they both care deeply about winning the biggest trophies, the CL especially (they came from Barca and Real, and most of their direct “peers” in terms of players at their talent level, are at least competing to win it). And neither of them is getting any younger. I think way more than money, and more than who the manager is, they want to know that they have a chance of achieving their career dreams at Arsenal, over the next 4ish years, as careers are really short and time is running out. They could be persuaded to stay on, based on the assurance that a) we’ll be back in the CL next year, and b) we’ll have a better chance of winning the PL this year (the fact that Leicester and Chelsea won it while not being in CL is actually a really good rhetorical point we can use with transfer targets this summer). Oh, and if we offer them a TON of cash. But footballers (and their agents) are not known for their patience.

      2. The Ox is a slightly different story. I think the biggest problem is that we’ve been slow/stupid about offering him a deal, and his agent is a massive d*ck. So while I doubt not being in the CL is a deal-breaker for him, I fear his agent’s going to use that as leverage to try to pressure us into selling him to another English team who finished above us (and get a fat fee for his services in the process). Hope I’m wrong here. The Ox at least seems a sensible lad, so if we offer him a significant pay raise, and assurances that he’s central to our plans going forward, we could still keep him.

      3. The overarching issue is just one of perception. Arsenal have been perceived as a club that have plateaued for years now, and that was when we were still qualifying for the CL. We’ve all heard it as nauseam: Wenger is old and past it, the squad don’t have a winning mentality, etc, etc. The fact that the prem is now awash with money, and that all these “sexy” (in purely footballing terms!) young managers have taken up residence at our various rivals doesn’t help matters. I think the press narrative this summer will overwhelmingly be that we’re “falling behind” the other five. Even if that’s not true, unfortunately people in general, and players and agents in particular, are influenced by the press, at least to some degree. Look, the English based football media are biased and stupid (I mean that literally: most of the football hacks/pundits are not intelligent people). But they have power to shape the narrative around us and that will hurt.

      3. Once one falls behind–in perception, and to a degree in reality, in terms of the players one can attract–it’s very hard to catch back up. Chelsea have done it, but they had a recently title winning squad to work with, a dynamic new (title-winning) manager, lots of cash, and an undoubted reputation in Europe as a BIG CLUB, who actually won things. Everyone knew they were likely to get back close to the top sooner rather than later. It’s taken Man United several years to get back to the CL (did the qualify in LVG’s first year? I can’t remember), and even this year, they’re only getting in, if at all, through the Europa. Ditto Liverpool, and it took them hiring a dynamic, young, extremely well regarded manager. Spurs have really never been CL regulars until now, and again, it took them hiring a young, super talented manager.

      4. The best way to halt this narrative is to act like a BIG CLUB. We could do that by firing Wenger and hiring someone with a big reputation, like Allegri or Simeone, but like Doc, I’m not sure that will translate into instant success on the pitch; and there’s every chance that we’ll end up with a dud, unless we make sure we line the right person up before letting AW go. Assuming Arsene stays, we need to play hardball with the players that want to leave (or at the very least, get top money for them, from foreign clubs, and have suitable replacements lined up before they go). Be willing to splash the cash, etc. Be ruthless about selling some of the underperforming “deadwood” (not just the Jenkinsons of the world; I’m looking at you, Theo), and investing that money back into the squad. Of course money doesn’t guarantee success. Man United have wasted a ton of money in the last few years, but arguably their willingness to spend huge has helped continue the perception that they are truly a big club, which makes it more likely that they can keep attracting the big talents that any team needs to win the league (e.g Griezmann). It’s not all about going out and mindlessly spending big on the flavor of the month (cough, Pogba, cough). But, with our current squad in decent shape, a few more players in the Alexis-Ozil talent bracket is surely what we need to push on. And now it’s likely going to require us to spend huge (and some dumb luck) to get those players.

    • In terms of being able to focus on the league, being out of Europe entirely is one thing, being in the Europa is another.

      Europa League Pros: building confidence/experience against weaker (but still decent) Euro opposition; decent chance of getting back into CL directly through winning it (arguably it’s easier to get it done this way than getting top 4 in the league); if we won it or went far, we’d have the experience and (moderate) glory of winning something (then again, the FA Cup hasn’t seemed to help us in this regard); lastly, it’s unlikely we’ll experience the trauma and embarrassment of a Bayern level defeat.

      Europa League Cons: by all accounts, Thursday night matches, especially away ones, are exhausting!!!!! And though we’d have more license to play “cup sides” for those games, thus ensuring our best players are a bit better rested, doing so obviously negates many of the pros mentioned above. Plus, I’m not sure, in terms of prestige, most potential signings would be more likely to want to come to us if we’re in the Europa than if we’re out of Europe altogether.

      So, yeah, it’s not great. If we take it seriously in order to get the benefits of winning it, we’ll be exhausted. If we don’t, then we still have to play the games in the fall at least, which will be even more a waste of time/energy.

    • Agree on the pros and cons, but I say embrace our fate and try to win the thing.

      Any bouncebackability that Europa might provide is severely compromised if your best players leave. And there’s a big difference between skipping Europe altogether, and being in Europa.

      From the point of view of an Eden Hazard, for example, best to skip a year of any form of European competition than schlep to Dagestan on Thursdays. Plus we don’t pay as well as Chelsea, so the incentive of missing champions league for a year is much reduced.

      Whatever you may think about our ability to keep them now, Sanchez and Ozil will certainly leave, because Europa would damage their marquee player brands.

      • It would be silly for them to make that decision based on our UCL status. I agree it figures inOzil in particular is fond of playing for Wenger and has said as much; Alexis is a loose cannon but one who has found a home after being a peripheral figure at Barca. If I’m either of them I think about what’s best for my future career, not just next season. They may well conclude they’d rather jump ship but they may also say: maybe we’re not that far behind Chelsea if we can keep this group and add 1-2 more pieces. We don’t know and we won’t know until something happens, but I’d be willing to bet that UCL status is not even a top 5 priority for them. They’ve both played in it pretty much every year. Their brand doesn’t depend on it.

        • I don’t think they’re thinking about “brand” (maybe their agents try to push that crap, but they’re both ambitious as footballers, full stop). But I think when you put yourself in their shoes, you’re thinking like a person who’s got above-average intelligence and thoughtfulness (I don’t know you, but, hey, I’ll say that much), can evaluate all the factors, take the longterm view, etc. With all do respect to our dear Mesut and Alexis, the empirical evidence regarding footballers in these situations is that the majority of them are vain, greedy, impatient, immature, hyper-competitive, and simplistic in their thinking. And they tend to rely heavily on the advice of their advisors, much of which is not the best. They act like adolescents, in other words, not like mature men.

          Here’s hoping our duo (and the Ox) rise above this stereotype. But as for the UCL not being a top priority: they’re both going to be 29 next season. Why wouldn’t they be thinking about the UCL, since neither of them has ever won it, and it’s the pinnacle of club football success???

        • That’s a harsh view of footballers. Football is different to most other jobs, but like any other salaried professional, they are, above all, rational. Many of us change jobs or consider changing jobs because of circumstances in our favour — level of pay, perks, location, good schools, greater influence, and last but not least job satisfaction. It’s bad enough for Ozil, a German who is an important figure on his national team, to deal with getting blown out by Bayern every time you meet. To be on the end of an embarrassing quality gap. There’s no job satisfaction in working in a vastly inferior enterprise. They’re not shareholders, and are not that invested in staying come what may. Why should love of Arsenal/loyalty or whatever your argument is, trump what would be a rational decision to leave a failing club (on the field)?

          You’re both engaging in wishful thinking if you think that Ozil would think like that. If you get my drift.

          If reports are true, Bayern want Alexis. He’d earn more. He’d play with better players. He’d stand a better chance of winning the league or Champions League . He’d play in the Champions League. Duh.

          When I say brand, I mean simply that players want to preserve their elite status, attractiveness and cachet. And yes, to be marketable. Ozil is less attractive to Adidas asa Europa League level player.

          To weigh things up in this way is far from being silly. It’s being perfectly rational.

          • I have my doubts that Alexis will be here next season, but I’m not sure it’s because of a lack of Champions League football. I’ll put it another way: Do you really think Ozil and Alexis came to a club like Arsenal expecting to win the Champions League?

            They each left a tier 1 club for a tier 2 club. Why? I can guess, but I don’t imagine it’s because they thought they’d be competitive with a tier 1 club in European football. Rather, my guess would be Ozil wanted to be at a nice, stable club with a stable, likable manager, while Alexis wanted to be the top man at a club and knew he’d never be able to do that at a club like Barcelona.

            I think Ozil’s desires have remained largely the same (there is some speculation, for example, that his future depends on Wenger’s), though I wonder sometimes whether Alexis’ have changed…

          • PFO, while they may not be mature, educated individuals, they probably do think very deeply about their own futures. Playing careers are short and each decision is massive. Plus they have their families and agents and peers always advising them, for better or for worse. They may make bad decisions but it’s unlikely to be because they haven’t weighed the pros and cons.

            Claude, I’m not invoking loyalty necessarily, but I am invoking that Ozil likes playing for Wenger. It’s no secret that Wenger gives him the kind of freedom he’s not likely to find elsewhere. So, very selfishly, Ozil might see Arsenal as a place where he can continue to play the kind of football he enjoys playing under a manager who will continue to indulge his needs.

            I think Alexis must do as well because he just set a new personal record high in goals scored and I think after Atom and Humber, that’s probably his biggest pride and joy. So, very selfishly, Alexis can stay and continue to be a star, or he can go to Bayern and go back to being the 3rd-4th most important player, not being guaranteed playing time (uh-oh) and generally taking 3 big steps backward in importance and visibility on a team that fully expects to, and does, steamroll their opposition every weekend. Which one of those moves is better for his “brand”? Which one do you think appeals more to him personally? That’s the yin to the yang which you spelled out, but it’s just as real.

            Your arguments are not silly, but these players would be if they decided whether to sign a contract with us simply over UCL status, though it’s one of many factors they are doubtless considering. Chances are they are just like us, uncertain.

          • 1. Will Alexis earn more at Bayern? If we’re willing to pay what reports suggest we’re willing to pay, then I doubt it.

            2. You’re right I was being overly harsh. I guess my point is, suppose a reasonable argument can be made for staying put: that life’s more satisfying in the long run if you value loyalty to a place/job, etc, if you finish what you’ve started and what you’ve put a lot of effort into building, rather than jump at the first chance of an easier way of getting your goals (e.g. Bayern) that requires less of you (and will bring you less credit) and involves giving up on the people around you and all the hard work you’ve put in with them.

            I’m not saying anyone must think this way, but it’s not crazy to do so (that’s why people, in all walks of life, struggle with these kinds of career choices). Presumably it’s what kept Wenger at Arsenal rather than jump ship to e.g. Madrid a decade ago. If you’re at all inclined to think this way, and you also think, with Doc, “hey, we’re really not a million miles behind Chelsea; with the right investments, we could be onto something really special here in the next few seasons,” then you might be motivated to stay put, quite apart from all the money and all the other attractive clubs batting their eyes at you. Maybe that’s optimistic, but it doesn’t seem prima facie crazy to have those values and take up those reasons.

            Now, my point is just, even if a thoughtful person could reach this conclusion (and thoughtful people would no doubt disagree on the merits of the above–being more pragmatic and ruthless is also not prima facie crazy), footballers and their entourages are probably somewhat tone deaf to that kind of nuanced thinking. Not all of them, mind. And maybe I’m just being very condescending.

            But my evidence from the last 20+ years of watching professional footballers suggests to me (as I mentioned on another thread recently), that the football world isn’t too different from school: everyone wants to be one of the “cool kids”. There’s a clear hierarchy, based on a mix of real and superficial values, and almost everyone tends to act in ill-considered and inconsiderate ways to get as high up that hierarchy as possible. To the degree that the values are not so superficial, and the motivations are not so ill-considered, this can be perfectly rational (if sad). But to the degree that the values are superficial and the reasons for acting ill-considered, it’s foolish (even if there ARE genuinely rational reasons to act that way out there, they’re not your reasons–you just wanna be cool).

            On that basis, Alexis and Ozil, like so many before them, will push to join the “cool crowd” this summer, because they can, and probably (perhaps) for no better reasons than that.

          • 1. Alexis will earn millions more at Bayern and would be able to take a weekly paycut. Because Bayern have more lucrative sponsorship opportunities.

        • I’m not sure about that Tim. None of the top 20 highest earning (salary + endorsements) soccer players are in Germany. Zero. Listing them by endorsements you see a huge fall off from Barca and Madrid. (1)

          $26MM Messi
          $22MM Neymar, Ronaldo
          $10MM Bale
          $7MM Aguero, Ibrahimovich, James Rodriguez
          $6MM Rooney, Ozil
          $5MM Suarez, Fabregas
          $4MM Hazard
          $3MM Toure
          $2MM Falcao, Di Maria, RVP, D Silva, T Silva, Schweinstiger
          $1M Nasri

          No doubt Alexis would make more in endorsements if he were dominating a Madrid or Barca, but that isn’t going to happen. He would probably make more if he went to Chelsea or City because he would be one of their two best players. But Bayern would not likely be a windfall. In fact his current salary 163,000 euro/week is higher than anyone at Bayern.(2,3)

          Sources:
          1. Forbes highest paid soccer players 2016
          2. totalsportek Arsenal player salaries 2016
          3. totalsportek Bayern Munich player salaries 2016

      • It would be silly for them to make that decision based on our UCL status. I agree it figures into the equation but I don’t see it as a decisive factor. Ozil in particular is fond of playing for Wenger and has said as much; Alexis is a loose cannon but one who has found a home after being a peripheral figure at Barca. If I’m either of them I think about what’s best for my future career, not just next season. They may well conclude they’d rather jump ship but they may also say: maybe we’re not that far behind Chelsea if we can keep this group and add 1-2 more pieces because most of the players are in or coming into their prime and Chelsea is unlikely to replicate this seasons results. We don’t know and we won’t know until something happens, but I’d be willing to bet that UCL status is not even a top 5 priority for them. They’ve both played in it pretty much every year. Their brand doesn’t depend on it.

  2. Sorry Tim, you deserve what the points table says you do.

    Wenger doesn’t deserve a contract extension, based on his stewardship of the recent past. The board deserves our opprobrium, for a number of reasons. Those are different matters from whether Arsenal deserves a Top 4 finish. If they achieve that, they will have on the balance of the season. It’s a league, not a performance scorecard.

    • “It’s a league, not a performance scorecard.”

      No, it’s exactly a performance scorecard. “How did you do? I finished second of 20. Not bad! How did you do? Finished 5th. Ohhh, with all that time and money invested? Ouch.”

      • Sorry Tim but” deserves got nothing to do with it”, said Clint Eastwood character in “The Unforgiven”, before blowing Little Bill’s head off.

        But if Arsenal manage to sneak past Liverool on the last day then more power to them, I say, and see you in hell… Liverpool, or Europa League rather.
        The second part of that movie quote didn’t work out quite well to be honest, but in terms of making the run on the league title, the Europa league is kind of hell. Something Mourinho and Pochettino before him can attest to.

        But if we don’t( sneak past Liverpool), I would be curious to see what Wenger thinks now about his lack of readiness on August 14th 2016.

        Pretty costly oversight I would say.

    • I hear you and am inclined to agree, but the one thing you can’t argue against is the objective reality of a points tally. If we get the 4th highest (and I don’t think we will), I don’t think anyone can say that we don’t deserve it. We got the points we got. What we haven’t looked this season (barring Chelsea and United at home) is a Top 4 side. So I am mentally prepared for finishing outside, while hoping to heaven for a last day miracle. The corollary is that if Liverpool end up 5th, they won’t have deserved it. Sure they will. They’ll have blown it. You get what the table says you do.

  3. Arsenal can also get fourth if Liverpool lose or draw and Arsenal wins the next two, no?

    • Yes, but the only game they have left is at home to already relegated Middlesbrough. But, hey, y’never know…

    • yep. based on the opposition of each of the three teams, and the differences in goal difference, I fear the best chance we have now is City drawing both of their games (I would be pretty shocked if Boro resist an extremely motivated Liverpool and a crazy-loud Kop for 90 minutes). Even if City lose one of their games (surely they won’t lose both), I don’t think we’re going to overturn City’s goal difference advantage unless we score like 7 at Sunderland, and one thing that annoys me about this current Arsenal team is that even when we win extremely comfortably, we very rarely blow teams out (the likes of City and Spurs do this regularly). Everton will be a tough nut to crack, even if they have nothing to play for, as Koeman’s ego obviously enjoys getting one over on Arsene. So I don’t think we’ll be racking up the goals there.

      All this is why it’s a huge shame that Leicester didn’t get a draw against City on Saturday. Who knows, City may blow out their next two opponents, but if e.g. Pulis’s side holds them to a draw in midweek, the fact that Mahrez slipped while taking a penalty will be all the more bitter to swallow.

      Of course, more bitter (bitterer?) still is the fact that we’ve sucked so hard for most of this season, and if we had just, you know, not lost AT HOME TO WATFORD (or had any number of other bad results, take your pick) we wouldn’t be in this shameful position.

  4. I’m against the idea of judging a team’s worth or success based on where they rightfully ‘should’ have finished, unless we’re talking about those one or two titles we rightfully ‘won’ but for the league unanimously deciding that it was A-okay for every team to kick the $h!t out of us for about 7 years.

  5. It’s a majestic competition but we don’t deserve a place in it based on performances over 36 games.

    It’s a sad marker of our current level of ambition that people are more interested in who qualification might allow us to sign (or keep) than about winning the CL. And it’s a futile fixation because our last few signings, Elneny, Xhaka, Mustafi, Perez and possibly Kolasinac are not players with stellar CL pedigree. Unless our transfer policy is going to change radically we really don’t need to be in the competition to bring in more under-the-radar StatsDNA targets.

    So let someone else go and get smashed by Bayern and Juventus for a season or two while we decide what kind of club we are.

    • Neuer was a well thought of prospect from Schalke, signed by Bayern well before he was the finished product. Alaba was signed from Austria as a youth player. Boateng was discarded by Man City after being signed initially from Hamburg. Robben was discarded by Madrid. Ribery was bought from Marseilles for less than 15 million as I recall. Alcantara was a steal because they bought him before he developed into the world’s most complete midfielder. Even Lewandowski wasn’t what he is today when he crossed enemy lines in a big money move. I could go on. Yes, they do buy estalished players at the top of the market sometimes, but that’s not what their success is built on. They’ve been incredibly good at buying top talent before the hype machine could really kick in. How did Bayern make all those decisions? Is it that they see something others don’t? I honestly don’t know but they’ve killed it on the market every since Klinsmann’s reign came to a screeching halt and have been dominating ever since, regardless of who their manager is.

      I cite that example because I consider Bayern’s the best, most rational, model for squad building and its multifaceted approach is the one that’s most likely to succeed. I think that’s just what Arsenal’s trying to do. We are not as good as them at it, yet, but from this view a tool like StatsDNA can only help, not hurt, the effort. NO doubt Bayern has their own elite team of analytic types.

      • Bayern enjoy the advantage of being a WHOPPING HUMONGOUS FISH in a medium sized pond. Lewendowski was world class at Dortmund, and even though he had beaten Bayern to the championship twice with them, he still chose to betray his club to join their great rivals. Anyone who knew anything about the Barca and Spain youth teams knew that Thiago was going to be a huge star. Barca lost him because they didn’t transition from Xavi to him early enough, because they were just downright stupid about his release clause, and because Bayern hired their former boss. Everyone also knew that Neuer was going to be world class (had a storming performance against Man United in the CL, I seem to remember); Bayern got him because of their big fish status. Ditto Alaba, presumably (it’s no surprise that they not only have a bigger pull, but also better scouting, in German-speaking and eastern european nations). Ditto Boateng after City didn’t want him.

        I agree with your general point, I just think it’s easier said than done, and it’s not just down to them being especially clever. It’s about the history, money, and prestige of the club allowing them to take their pick of the best in the Bundesliga and surrounding lesser leagues.

        Arsenal will never have that status, due to the other big fish in the PL (several of whom are only big fish, lest we forget, due to mega-rich foreign sugar daddies swooping in and getting to play god with their new toy). Anyway, I guess I’m not really disagreeing with you…

        (On a completely different note, this came up on an earlier thread the other day, not for the first time, and I wanted to address it: can we all just stop pretending that Wenger’s early success in the PL was down to the league being a “two team league”? La Liga for the last decade has been a two team league (and even then Athletico have made it interesting). Scotland is a two team league. The Premier League, and the English First Division, has NEVER been a two team league. To the degree that it looked that way for about 7-8 years around the turn of the century is perhaps THE CLEAREST PROOF AVAILABLE OF ARSENE WENGER’S GENIUS. Arsenal were one of the biggest teams in the league when AW arrived. But they weren’t the first or second biggest club (maybe third). And they didn’t enjoy anything like the financial advantage over their rivals that Chelsea and City have since enjoyed, or even the kind that the old “big four” did ten years ago. A half dozen clubs were roughly on par (or better) with them in terms of size of fan base and finances and history. And on the pitch, they weren’t the first or second or third best team in the country. Man United were the undisputed cock of the walk of English football, and Liverpool had been before them. The glory days of Graham’s Arsenal (never as dominant as Arsene’s) were a distant memory. Liverpool and Newcastle both looked more exciting and more likely to challenge United in the near future. Arsene inherited an aging and stagnating squad. To insinuate his achievements are like winning titles with a member of the Old Firm has got to be the most ridiculous, churlish interpretation of events possible (right up there with saying he only won anything because he inherited his defense.)

      • I had a long reply to this that I lost. Basically it said that Bayern enjoy being the only huge fish in a medium sized pond, and Arsenal will never have this advantage. Not saying they haven’t been clever…

      • It does seem like we’d have more chance of signing up and coming prospects rather than finished articles. Being realistic, once a player becomes a sure thing it’s going to be incredibly hard to convince them to choose Arsenal over teams like Barcelona, Real, Bayern, Juventus, City, Chelsea, United and even PSG.

        If I had a criticism it’s maybe that with this in mind we don’t seem willing or able to ‘push the boat out’ and maybe overpay/gamble on higher profile youth prospects.

        Saying that, once you get a reputation for overpaying, like United, you’re stuck with it. Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish we took a few more high profile gambles.

        • We ‘overpaid’ for the Ox and Callum Chambers. Call it the English tax I guess, but in those two cases, we definitely pushed the boat out. Or maybe Southampton are just great negotiators.

          Also, even other managers have made the point that when an English club comes calling for talent, the price immediately goes up. Which is why I don’t think we could have got Dembele for whatever little amount he went for to Dortmund (if he were even willing to consider us over them)

          But on your overall point, I agree. Maybe sometimes we miss out because we don’t go far enough for a player that we believe in.

      • They do both, Doc. They have great alchemy in investing in youth/underdevelopment, and buying established. You’re wrong about Lewa — he WAS top drawer when they bought him, as were Hummels and Gotze (for whom things didn’t work out). I’d add to that Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal, despite being on the wrong side of 30.

        I don’t disagree on the model, although they operate in a virtual monopoly in their market, and it makes a big difference to their power to acquire skills.

      • Bayern’s model for years has seemed to be, to buy whoever does well in the league.(and this used to annoy me as a casual watcher of the German league) And because they are the dominant force, financially and on the field in their country. They can do this. They’ve won something like half the league titles since the Bundesliga began. And with Germany seeing a resurgence on the world stage through their young players, this gives them an even better platform.

        Beyond that of course, they go out and get some established players from outside. Ribery and Robben weren’t exactly unknowns. I’d say they were more on the level of Alexis Sanchez than the Ox at the time Bayern bought them. (Madrid discarded Ozil too and he was no unknown) They did well to get Vidal and Alonso, despite their age. But that must also be informed by the knowledge that they have a next gen of midfielders ready to break through. I think Douglas Costa can be put in the promising slot along with Coman, where I guess they saw their succession line lacking.

        I’m not taking credit away from them. They buy well, and they buy for the long term. There’s a lot Arsenal can learn from them, and I think there’s a reason Gazidis pointed to Bayern rather than the Spanish clubs as the benchmark. Because we intend to follow that path. Bayern just don’t have a bigger club and two oil fed clubs in their league, and they don’t have the establishment against them either. Wherein lies the difference. (On the plus side, the league’s strength has given us more money)

  6. On a completely different note, this came up on an earlier thread the other day, not for the first time, and I wanted to address it: can we all just stop pretending that Wenger’s early success in the PL was down to the league being a “two team league”? La Liga for the last decade has been a two team league (and even then Athletico have made it interesting). Scotland is a two team league. The Premier League, and the English First Division, has NEVER been a two team league. To the degree that it looked that way for about 7-8 years around the turn of the century is perhaps THE CLEAREST PROOF AVAILABLE OF ARSENE WENGER’S GENIUS. Arsenal were one of the biggest teams in the league when AW arrived. But they weren’t the first or second biggest club (maybe third). And they didn’t enjoy anything like the financial advantage over their rivals that Chelsea and City have since enjoyed, or even the kind that the old “big four” did ten years ago. A half dozen clubs were roughly on par (or better) with them in terms of size of fan base and finances and history. And on the pitch, they weren’t the first or second or third best team in the country. Man United were the undisputed cock of the walk of English football, and Liverpool had been before them. The glory days of Graham’s Arsenal (never as dominant as Arsene’s) were a distant memory. Liverpool and Newcastle both looked more exciting and more likely to challenge United in the near future. Arsene inherited an aging and stagnating squad. To insinuate his achievements are like winning titles with a member of the Old Firm has got to be the most ridiculous, churlish interpretation of events possible (right up there with saying he only won anything because he inherited his defense.

  7. They might not be relevant to football, but I love Tim’s post on cooking and baking which comes sprinkled with lots of little details.

    As for the new formation. I am sold on it. The stats might prove otherwise but the eye test, for me, is that when 1 CB miss a tackle there is another covering or blocking or challenging.

    So while the stats might label them all as big opportunities, having that extra CB means there is difference in quality of that big opportunity.

    Just my 2 cents. And yeah, if we want change, at least it is no longer boring UCL for next season.

    • So do you think we should continue with this formation next season?

      From a recruitment perspective it makes sense. We already have a plethora of CBs, playing in that formation makes Ramsey a viable option, and Ox is still versatile, so the need to completely rejig midfield goes away (addition(s) still needed though). And it also means we need to upgrade only on a CF rather than a winger too, and there might even be places for Iwobi and Wilshere in this formation.

      It does mean Walcott might need to be sold, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a negative.

      However, from an attacking point of view, it seems to restrict us a little bit. Maybe increased familiarity and better players will change that. There’s a reason though that people were skeptical that Wenger will ever change to a 3 at the back.

      I can’t decide. I’d like us to go 433, but I think this system might suit our players more.

      • I don;t think this formation haas done a single thing to address the defensive problems of this team and I blame Ramsey for that.

        • “Changing the system gave us a bit more security at the back,” he told Arsenal Player. “We looked a bit more solid defensively on the counter-attack but also it gives a bit of a licence for us attacking players to get forward into the box and into dangerous areas as we know we have that reassurance at the back.”
          —————————————————–
          That’s Ramsey speaking. He refers to ‘us attacking players’, and I guess that might be a problem. If we get a better CF, maybe that will result in Ramsey being reined in. Of course we should buy a better CM first of all, and Ramsey can play as backup, either at the 8, or instead of Ozil/Alexis at the twin ten spot.

        • Ramsey should be shipped out as part of summer clean-out. Been saying for years he’s overrated but would fetch a fantastic fee on the transfer market.

        • Tim, I’m sorry you feel that way. The team looks unrecognizable to me from before the switch. Maybe the big chances are no different but the players look and play more confident football. I’m also reasonably certain that we are getting beat behind the wingbacks much less than we were before and we look better from set pieces. That may not correlate perfectly with big chances but to me that’s what has improved when we are playing without the ball.

          Regarding Ramsey, I’ve said many times he is a forward and should be used that way. Once his legs start going a little he will naturally drop deeper but right now he’s obsessed with the idea of going forward. And frankly, we need a player like that, especially against teams like Sunderland. His runs and ability to combine with the front 3 have been a real source of consternation for our opposition recently. I don’t mind moving on from him, but why? Just use him in the right way and against the right opposition and there is no problem.

          • He’s neither sufficiently quick nor sufficiently (consistently) twinkle-toed to be a starter as a forward. Plus, it doesn’t take advantage of his remarkable engine.

            But we’ve had that discussion before…

      • Shard, “needing” to sell Walcott is most definitely a positive!! His goals, “pace” (boy do the English love their pace), and all-around Englishness mean it’s possible we could get up to 20-25 million for him. And, we wouldn’t have to pay his massive wages any more, so they could go towards an actual quality center forward. Hey, it’d be like free money.

        • I agree with your buying list above (CF, CM, LB) especially if we’re going to stick with this 5-2-2-1, or 3-4-3 or whatever it is.

          I also agree we should keep Alexis, Ozil and the Ox, if at all possible. Ox has the same agent as Sterling, but he seems to be a different kind of person. I also think he genuinely enjoys being at Arsenal. He’s often at the youth team games too. So hopefully, he will sign on.

          Walcott is so frustrating. He’s good and has some value, and has this annoying habit of doing some good things just when you get ready to write him off. But he’s never going to be what he’s not. Which probably makes him disposable. Again, especially in this system.

          But there’s just so many unknowns at this point. The manager, the system, which players are staying, which loanees will get a chance etc. As it stands, we’re going to be over the 25 man limit already next year, and will need to cut some players. Gibbs, Walcott, Ospina(?) and maybe a CB and a CM might need to leave to make room for new signings. But that depends on who we can get as well.

  8. I don’t know any Arsenal fan who didn’t enjoy Arnautovic getting what was coming to him. And it’s not like Holding’s challenge crossed the line between acceptable and dangerous. So yeah, applaud away. I also liked the way Holding nonchalantly walked away. Plus, I think Xhaka intimidates the opposition with his size, usually calm behaviour, but the knowledge that he can be a loose cannon, blow a fuse, and take them out. I like Xhaka. Have since his BMG days.

    As to whether Arsenal deserve it or not. Nobody seems to care when Arsenal ‘deserve better’, so why should I care if we deserve worse? If anything, it’ll be more enjoyable. Maybe Liverpool will eat some bad lasagna, or sauerkraut. But first, we must beat Sunderland, and then finish the job against Everton.

  9. On whether Ozil and Alexis will stay.

    First, if the club is willing to spend money, then they can be willing to lose money as well. Sell them now for a combined what..70-80m. Who will you get to replace them with so that you don’t miss out on a CL spot next year and another 40m or so?

    Beyond that, you are then depending on them being not so desperate to leave that they cause disruption.

    I can understand them wanting to leave. But I can’t understand them being desperate to leave.

    As long as we throw money at the problem. Pay them big wages (and add a buyout clause which becomes active if we don’t play CL next year), and bring in some good to top talent in positions of need, and I think they’ll stay.

    Also, I’m not one to read too much into gestures or moments caught on camera, but Alexis has made a real show of celebrating his goals by patting the badge in the last two games. In fact, he (like Ozil before him) seems to have consciously worked on his body language because of the press it was generating. Not quite sure what to make of those celebrations if anything, but it’s interesting because it is deliberate.

  10. We talk as if it’s a perfect players’ market. They come and go as they like and wherever they like. Overall market forces would always hold sway. Ozil as an example. How many of the teams that can afford him want him? Very few. How many of those very few would Ozil prefer over us. Two, one or zero. So the chances of Ozil staying put with us are quite high. We are simply too self critical. Suddenly the top 4 trophy that we all looked down on has gotten all important because it’s passing us by and going to Liv and Manc and Tot.

    • Not sure you’re right about top clubs not wanting Ozil. May not be willing to pay 40-50 million for him, and his age is a downside, but with only one year left on his contract, I’m sure if he makes it clear he wants to leave, clubs will be coming in offering 25-30 for him. At that price, he’d be a steal. I think the best teams in Europe realize he’s still world class and could improve them, and those clubs are so secure in their position in their leagues, so much superior to 90% of the domestic teams they play (think Barca, Juve, Bayern, PSG) that they can afford to have a “true 10” who doesn’t do much defending, provided he’s making 25+ goals a season for them, which is what he can do. At 30 million it won’t hurt them much financially, so they can always afford to bench him for big european ties. It’s only in England that someone who doesn’t much care for the extreme physical “rough n tumble” is seen as a terrible luxury. Twas ever thus.

      As for the Ox: young, English, versatile, can dribble, “pace & power”, he’s basically most English clubs’ dream signing. We should get 50 million for him in this market (or better, keep him), but if he pushes for a move, we might be stuck only getting 25-30, which would be a massive failure on our part. Even Jack might attract quite a few suitors, though his injury record, and looking pretty weak physically and defensively since coming back to full fitness, might put them. Wouldn’t be surprised if City make a bid though. Getting him for 18-20 million, for a side with their resources, could be a bargain in the long run (and, unlike with these other players, might be good business for us, depending on if we’re willing to actually invest the money on a proper partner for Xhaka).

      As for Sanchez, we know there’s going to be approximately two hundred clubs after him…

      I’d love to be proved wrong, but without the CL, I’m convinced it’s going to be a long and dispiriting summer.

      • Because of the homegrown player quota, we could get 100 million for Ramsey, Wilshere, Ox and Gibbs combined if we didn’t care who we sold them too. Combine that with 35-40 million for Ozil or Sanchez (assuming sale to a continental club) that’s a decent haul and when you consider we spent just 5 million on Holding the right person in charge could spin that off into 8-9 quality signings to start the rebuild without CL money fattening our coffers next season.

        • I don’t think it’s realistic to get 8-9 “quality” signings in one window, especially if that involves selling a bunch of the club’s top assets, some of whom would be sold to domestic rivals, since those transactions would be long and complicated, assuming we worked to get a top price for all of them. Even if you think the English core is overrated, they’re not so bad that we could get rid of all of them (and our two best players!) in one summer, without there being a knock-on effect in our squad’s subsequent performances. Add in the fact that, without CL football, top quality will be reluctant to come to us (Rob Holding is a great prospect, but if we fill our squad with the Rob Holdings of the world, we will struggle mightily next season, and maybe for a couple of seasons), so I don’t think your suggested plan is a wise one.

          I would do everything to hold onto Ozil, Alexis, and the Ox, as I think they’re all top quality, unless they refuse to stay (note, this is different than refusing to sign) AND we can get big (read silly) money for them. No one is offering silly money for Ozil, so that leaves Alexis and the Ox. Hopefully we can keep all three, even if they don’t re-sign. Some people will tell you that’s bad business, but unless we’re really clever about lining up suitable replacements, then I disagree. I think lining up suitable replacements will be incredibly hard this summer (and they might still sign later).

          We need to clear out the deadwood, so that’s the likes of Ospina, Sanogo, Debuchy, Jenkinson and Campbell (Per if he hadn’t just extended his bloody contract; Gibbs, if we get the Schalke fella), even if we can’t get good money for them. No point keeping them on the payroll, since we know Wenger doesn’t want to play them. Time to clear some room, swiftly and efficiently. We then need to focus on selling a few players who are underachieving/limited/hold us back AND who can actually attract a significant fee (so no point concentrating on selling the likes of Elneny, though maybe if a buyer comes along, or on loan…). To me, the players who should go include BOTH of Theo and Giroud (or replace one with Welbeck, if the perfect offer comes in), and at least one of Ramsey or Wilshere.

          The good news is, if we can do all of the above (which we probably won’t/can’t), then the reinforcements we actually need are relatively limited, and even if they cost a small fortune, that will be partially offset by the sales. In short: decrease quantity, in exchange for greater quality. I’d go with (1) huge money for a superstar center forward, (2) smart/medium money for a young, talented center mid who is bought to dovetail with Xhaka, and (3) Kolasinac on a free. Simple.

          But of course that requires us to keep Ozil, Sanchez, and Ox. If we lose one or both of Ozil and Sanchez, we’ll need another talented no 10/wide forward type, preferably one who chips in with goals. If we lose Ox, we’ll need another attacking wingback or another wide attacker, depending on the formation we intend to play. The worry is, quite apart from the difficulty of replacing quality with comparable quality, the distraction of getting these replacements will mean we don’t fill the other areas of our squad that absolutely NEED to be addressed (center forward, center mid), and not for the first summer. So keep these three, if at all possible.

  11. Re: Ozil and Sanchez staying.

    See also: Wenger’s Future.

    My theory is Wenger hates the idea of a prolonged goodbye tour a la Ferguson. When he’s done, he’ll want to go quickly and quietly. But he does have a big ego and won’t want to go on a negative.

    If we win the FA Cup I think he will step down. If we lose he will want to stay and “fix” things. (whether he is capable or not is another debate).

    Hence the club’s dilemma; Wenger won’t tell them if he’s staying or going because even he doesn’t know yet. And his words about a technical director have paralyzed them also because if he stays he will refuse to work with one, if he goes they will need to find one asap.

    If we win the FA Cup Ozil will leave. Sanchez will stay because a new manager and director will make it priority one to keep him.

    If we lose the FA Cup Alexis will leave. Ozil will stay because Wenger is staying.

    Just my predictions. I’m hoping for an FA Cup win but would not put money on us beating Chelsea/Conte in a one-off match. Conte is after all the guy who helped Italy over-achieve in one-offs last summer.

  12. Ramsey tongiht being at his frustrating best/worst. Some really nice touches, passes, runs, especially in combination with Ozil.
    But also way too far forward, not helping enough with the buildup and arguably getting in the way of the front three at times, a couple of his trademark unnecessarily sloppy short passes that put teammates in trouble (in this case, under-hit ones), and one or two rushed/overhit passes to boot.
    Dude, just:
    a) Stop trying to score goals before all else, instead realize that you’re a midfielder, and position yourself on the pitch as such (runs into the box can evolve naturally from there)
    b) work on the foundational attributes of a midfielder: offering yourself for easy balls to feet, first touch in tight spaces, crisp, dependable, progressive passes. Is that so hard? You have the talent, just need to get your head on straight.

    • I know it was halfway through the second half and Sunderland were tiring, but it’s remarkable how much better we looked when Iwobi came on for Ramsey and we actually had two central midfielders in there who showed for the ball and passed and moved with rhythm and purpose, rather than one plus a wannabe forward.

      On another note, Ozil just played his umpteenth amazing pass (around the 85 minute mark), and 20 seconds later, after another ambitious pass just failed to come off, we have the idiot announcer saying “the eye of the needle pass, just not coming off tonight for the German.” Have you actually been watching the match you’ve been talking about for the last 90 minutes, moron?

  13. I always enjoy reading comments from gooners who argue simultaneously that (a) Player X is shwite (b) but some poor mug of a club, that doesn’t realise what they do, is going to pay 30 bazillion for him. The English premium is overstated. Or we’d pay £40m for Sturridge. These things are of course subjective, but it seems to me that the arguments trip over each other.

    If you think Ramcott or Wallsey are at the same time shwite players AND worth 30m+, carry on smartly.

    Good win, by the way. I do wish we’d give poor teams a leathering sometimes. get the old goal difference up.

    • I don’t think their s*%te. I think they’re limited and not what we need. And, yes, of course, one can overstate the English premium, but one can understate it as well. I bet the single biggest obstacle to someone paying 20+ for Walcott and 25 or even 30+ for Ramsey is the players’ unwillingness to go to all but a small handful of clubs, and the clubs’ unwillingness/inability to pay their big wages. That’s our dumb fault for putting them on such big, long contracts. But those two, in particular, are not just English, they’re “English”, in that they have all the attributes that British football culture inordinately loves (e.g. pace, goals, running around like a headless chicken), and few others (which is why they don’t suit us, at least not as starters). So someone would be dumb enough to pay a big fee, but I know I’m being optimistic in thinking that that will happen AND the players will be willing to go AND the other club will pay the big wages. Shame. We’ll probably stay stuck with those two while all our genuinely skilled and clever ball artists leave.

  14. The most notable bit from that Sunderland game was how intolerable the commentary really is on the television. I had to turn the sound all the way down, again because they just wouldn’t stop talking the whole club down! I mean, I know I’m biased for Arsenal but it can’t just be me imagining the whole thing can it? They only turned complementary once we scored and it became a shooting gallery on Pickford’s goal.

    For me, Ramsey was a valuable part of that win, though I was thinking Iwobi needed to come on sooner than he did. Nice impact from him in this game. For some reason Rambo’s shots and passes just aren’t coming off, but he’s consistently in position to do damage. It’s only a matter of time. I don’t understand telling a player like that to forget his instincts and focus on being a player he doesn’t want to be (i.e. functional box-to-box, a bit like El-Neny). How is that going to get the best out of him?

    Ozil was just a joy to watch today. On a different level from everyone else technically. Set up both goals. And those bozos said he looked like a player who wasn’t enjoying his football… games really are better enjoyed in silence when that’s the alternative.

    • It was the sumptuous OTT pass from Xhaka that made the first goal, as much as the cushioned volley/centre.

      • Chana’s lad to Ozil for the opener was pure, delicious caviar. He really impressed me today with his close control and command of the game in general.

    • Totally agree about Ozil and the commentators hating on Arsenal in general. And apparently it’s 100% his fault that he got annoyed with the Sunderland player standing right over the ball preventing him from taking a free kick–no suggestion that the other guy refusing to play by the rules might be partly to blame for the incident?

      The whole “instinct” thing with regard to Ramsey I admit I just don’t get. What is he, a lion on the savannah? Nope, he’s a human being with a brain and hopefully some degree of self-control, who, presumably, is motivated to become the best footballer he can be and to help his team win, and he gets paid a ridiculous amount of money to follow the instructions of his manager.
      I agree he did a bunch of good stuff tonight, especially late in the first half. One thing I’ve noticed recently–don’t know if it’s due to him getting a run of games in the side, or the new system which allows him to play in close quarters to the other 3 midfielders of the “box”–but his link up with Ozil has been as good as it’s been since Ozil’s debut season, when Ramsey went on such a tear. The two developed a really good understanding that season (remember, no Alexis yet for Mesut to partner), which we haven’t seen much of since.

      But he played box-to-box that season, and I’m sorry, it’s still his best (only good?) position. I won’t rehash the same old points as to why he’s not really good enough to be a number 10/inside forward in a team like ours (actually I think he could be decent at times, especially when games are stretched, if Arsene put him up there right now, and moved Alexis up top, but I don’t think that’s ideal in the long term). Instead, I’ll just address your consistent contention that he can’t flourish as a box-to-box

      1. With 3 at the back, he has plenty of license to roam going forward, he just needs to find the right balance with it.
      2. He has a tremendous engine, and enthusiasm for getting stuck in, so, again, there’s no reason to think he can’t focus more on the defensive side of his game and make sure he doesn’t get caught out of position. To have someone who physiologically can cover every blade of grass for 90 minutes (few have that in them; he reminds me of Roy Keane in that regard), and not push him to do so, because you’re indulging his ego and “instincts,” isn’t pushing him to be the best he can be.
      3. He showed against Southampton, and at times tonight, that he has the skills to make good passes, I just think he gets distracted by wanting to get in the box, and as a consequence, finds himself 10-15 yards too far forward too often. (He also should work on the sloppiness that creeps into his touch and passing, which, again, I think stems from him not taking it seriously enough, like simple stuff is beneath his Roy of the Rovers style.) No one’s saying he can’t ever make those little runs and find pockets of space in the area or between the lines (again, that’s the beauty of the back three), only that it’s a matter of picking and choosing his moments. Too many times tonight Xhaka was isolated in the midfield. How hard is it for Rambo to focus on helping out his midfield partner before bombing forward?
      4. Who said every box to box has to be entirely “functional” (i.e. boring and conservative)?? Yaya Toure is a box to box midfielder who scores plenty of goals, and he’s anything but “functional”. You’re creating a false dichotomy to support your position.

      • I love the enthusiasm, I really do! Would you do me a huge favor though and try to kindly compress the commentary a bit? I will fully admit I don’t always read your comments because they are simply too long. I can wax verbose with the best of them but you’ve topped even me.

        Staying on topic though, I appreciate the thorough treatment you’ve given Ramsey’s game. Quite simply a player’s instinct is what they naturally want to do on the football pitch. For Iwobi, it’s to dribble and connect passes. For Podilski it’s to pelt the daylights out of a football. For ozil it’s to caress the ball through the tiniest crevice, and for Ramsey it’s to play. combinations with the forwards and score great goals. That’s what he lives and breathes the game for. So when Xhaka is left isolated once or twice because Ramsey’s off trying to score goals, that’s the yin to his yang and it’s up to his manager to decide when and where to use him. It’s definitely a risk worth taking against Borini and co but probably not Hazard and co. In a high stakes game against top opposition I would probably use Ramsey as part of the front 3 to start or bring him off the bench if I need a goal. Against the likes of Sunderland, I think he should go nuts from a nominal CM position and that’s fine, but really he’s going to play like a forward and we should stop being surprised by that.

        When I describe El-Neny, functional is the key word, not box to box which in and of itself means little.

        • You don’t have to read them all, I don’t care. I’ll try to highlight the key bits so it’s easier to skim. But I’m not here for you, no offense. Getting out my thoughts is more like therapy (plus, I obviously have too much time on my hands at the moment, though that will change soon), so I’m unlikely to spend much time/effort applying the editor’s scalpel to my posts.

        • Last thought on Ramsey: if you’re right and his “instincts” can’t be coached under control, then I think super sub is probably his best role, as I just don’t think he’s consistently good enough offensively to start in the front 3 of a top team. And I doubt he’d be content with a bench role for us. So in that way, I think he’s hurting his own career by not focusing on midfield. But then again, Wenger has indulged him now for years, as he has Walcott, so I doubt anything will change: Ramsey will continue to put in substandard, Jekyll-&-Hyde performances in midfield, and yet continue to get picked when healthy, more often than not.

  15. My take on Ramsey is the same as Doc’s I think. In the 4231 I saw him as best suited to be our Thomas Muller. Starting from the right of the attacking trio (his runs are Ljungbergesque) He could perhaps even play up top in this current system, except his finishing isn’t up to scratch.

    I realise the flaws he has in that he’s too eager to get forward from midfield, and sometimes lacks the technique/decision making to play at a quicker pace which is needed to play higher up. Which makes him less than an elite midfielder, and as such he can cost us in big games. But it also makes him a very effective midfielder against most of the opposition we face, and his partnership with Xhaka is transitioning well from a theory to practice, now that they’ve played together.

    Another problem with Ramsey of course, is his fitness. If he can stay healthy, he is, as I said, effective. But he’s tended to miss many games and then takes time to get up to speed. With him and Santi that’s essentially two half season guys we have. If we add Wilshere into that mix too, we’ll likely be short again. I think I’d sell Wilshere, and give some younger players, like Niles, Jeff, Willock, and even Toral or Zelalem some chances.

    Also, I saw a youtube video (I know) of that Nigerian kid we have playing in the Dutch second division (I know) and he reminded me in some ways of Diaby (I know) Just putting that out there because I got a little excited. Maybe our youth development/recruitment can kick up a gear again after a readjustment period.

  16. Regarding Ramsey and his style or instincts, it’s probably not a fair comparison, and I don’t know if they’re even considered the same ‘type’ of midfielder, but when I think of Ramsey I think of Lampard and that guy was always getting on the end of things in the box and scored a stupid amount of goals year after year and yet there never seemed to be any suggestion that he neglected his other ‘box to box’ duties in any way.

    Maybe there was no criticism because Chelsea were doing well or maybe there was criticism but as an arsenal fan I didn’t hear it.

    Are Ramsey and Lampard comparable in a team role/skillset sense? Would I be completely happy with Ramsey if he simply put away more of those chances after arriving in such good positions?

    I don’t want to be too harsh on the guy. It just seems like there’s so much room for him to be an even better player than he already is.

    • Well, if he does follow Lampard’s trajectory he should start scoring buckets of goals next year.

      Though, by the time Lampard was 26 he already had 70 goals to his name. Ramsey has… 48. Lampard had 355 apps for his 70 goals, Ramsey has 328 for his 48.

      And the year he turned 26 (2004/05) he was player of the year.

      Ramsey will be 27 in December.

  17. There were already rumours that Bayern were involved when he moved, but if the rumours around Serge Gnabry’s transfer FROM Werder Bremen are true, it just shows how crazy dominant Bayern are in their league, where they can manage not only their own, but other teams’ transfers as well.

  18. Would love an analysis of Ramsey v Coquelin for the central midfield position with specific emphasis on preparations for countering the challenges put forward by Chelsea in The Cup Final.

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