Man City 3-1 Arsenal: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2018 will be the 10th year of 7amkickoff. The testimonial year! As such, I expect all of you to organize a testimonial which features at least a few famous players from the past: Denilson, Flamini, Eboue, Hleb, Frimpong, Diaby, Walcott, and Adebayor ought to be available for free or nearly free. We can play out here in Tacoma, I know a few places, we can sell tickets, all my friends will come and at $5 a ticket, I think we can get $20 together or so. That should buy me one dinner at a small local restaurant (tip and beverages not included).

Jokes aside, the community here is wonderful. As if you needed proof, you all donated $200 to Margarette which I ended up sending her as a Western Union. She didn’t need the money for herself so she earmarked that money to buy her neighbors toilets and washbasins. And even though her internet is metered, she managed to send a hopeful photo of Dominica:

I think of that photo as a reminder that no matter how crazy things become, no matter how much they fall apart, we can always find a few moments of joy and beauty.

My point with all of this is that I have written a lot of articles. And one of the article styles I used to produce was a “Good, Bad, and Ugly”. I’m bringing it back. I’m bringing “ugly” back!

It’s pretty self explanatory: every match, regardless of outcome, has some good, bad, and ugly components. I write about them.

The Good

Ramsey and Lacazette. Ramsey did everything to win this game, he played forward, he defended, and he presented himself for the ball even though the City midfield would swarm him every time he got it. His tireless efforts led to the goal for Lacazette and he deserves praise.

At this point, I’m going to start sounding like a broken record: feed Lacazette the ball. He has 6 goals on 22 shots and should be the starting forward in every game that he is healthy. The entire team should also make Lacazette the focus. Yes, we want other players to score but the way he’s being under-utilized is criminal. The man is a goal-scoring beast. Feed the beast should be Arsenal’s mantra!

The Bad

Arsenal struggled in possession against Guardiola’s press. Ramsey and Xhaka turned the ball over a lot for a midfield tandem – though it’s hard to truly blame them when the main culprit was Alexis up front. He had more turnovers of possession than any player on the pitch, and fully 1/3 of the straight up turnovers of the team.

I don’t get obsessed with turnovers the way others do because the point of football is to pass the ball, to a teammate, who takes a shot. In essence, the point of possession is to turn the ball over! Ideally, you want to turn the ball over as a goal, but below that, you want to turn the ball over as a shot on target, and below that you want to turn the ball over as a shot that goes out for a goal kick. Any turnovers other than those three are dangerous: blocked shots, caught by a tackle, bad touch, offside, bad pass, all can lead to a quick counter or at the very least to the opposition getting a shot.

But I do understand the fan frustration when one player hogs the ball and doesn’t do anything with it, like Luis Suarez used to do for Liverpool and like Alexis sometimes does for Arsenal. Suarez only took one shot in this match and only created two for his teammates. He did get Ramsey the best shot of the first half but it was Ramsey who turned provider for Lacazette and Arsenal’s only goal.

Ostensibly Alexis should have been taking the most shots for this team, he was playing as the main striker in what looked like a 541 for most of the match. But where was Ozil? He should have been feeding Alexis the ball but Ozil was anonymous yesterday.

As frustrating as it is for some fans to see one guy turn the ball over constantly it’s just as frustrating for others to see Arsenal’s record holding playmaker disappear. Cue the stats about how many chances he’s created and how he’s the Premier League’s best playmaker since moving to Arsenal. But in big games my man Ozil disappears and he did yet another vanishing act last night.

In these big games you absolutely have to have your best players step up. That lifts the team, lifts the crowd, and gives your team the edge. That didn’t happen in this game.

The Ugly

Wenger’s lineup was another source of frustration. So, here’s the deal: the back 3 doesn’t add any defensive stability to Arsenal because Arsene Wenger encourages his midfielder to play as a forward. I am not criticizing Ramsey. The other day Wenger said how much he loves Ramsey in the box. It’s clear that Wenger wants Ramsey in the box. If my manager told me to go play forward as much as possible, that’s exactly what I would do. And not only that but it pays off: Ramsey has 3 goals and 3 assists this season in the Premier League adding his third assist for Lacazette’s goal last night.

But, if you play a back three, and then let your CM run forward, you leave the midfield to be covered by one center mid. This causes all kinds of problems in buildup, possession, and defending. And that’s exactly what we saw with Arsenal against City yesterday.

In possession, Arsenal struggled to hold on to the ball because there were so precious few combinations available for passes. It didn’t just happen with Alexis, every player on the team found themselves swarmed by periwinkle shirts when they had the ball. Ramsey, Alexis, Xhaka, all were easily dispossessed (see my by the numbers piece).

And when we turned the ball over, this was a midfield which got bypassed too easily and which every turnover was amplified because City had so much space to play in. Time and again they cut Arsenal open in that first half and to be honest a first half scoreline of 1-0 was flattering to Arsenal. Arsenal were called upon for some crazy last-ditch clearances, tackles, and on several occasions were lucky not to concede a penalty (Kolasinac shoved Sterling in the back twice in the 18 yard box and both were stonewall penalties missed by the officials) or for Sterling to latch onto one of those delicious fizzing passes and score a goal.

Coquelin made a few crucial tackles to stop City counters but overall his inclusion, in order to insist on playing a back three which didn’t keep the team solid, was a huge error on Wenger’s part. Dropping Coquelin into the CB spot should have played to Coq’s strengths (defense) and mitigated his weaknesses (passing) but he ended up having a mixed performance, doing some great defending but when pressed by City he was sloppy with his passing and ended up with the 2nd lowest pass completion rate behind Alexis.

I also want to know what Wenger is smoking not including Lacazette from the start. With Lacazette on the pitch, you free Alexis up, you free Ozil up, and while he takes space away from Ramsey (in the box), it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t need a lot of shots to score. Iwobi added nothing. This isn’t a condemnation of Iwobi. This is a condemnation of Wenger’s system. In a big game, you start your best players. The best three Arsenal attacking players are Alexis, Lacazette, and Ozil. Ozil and Alexis feed to ball to Lacazette whose movement causes havok. Lacazette either shoots (which I would tell him to do every time he has the ball) or passes to Alexis, Ozil, or the occasional run from midfield, like Ramsey. Of course I’ll be criticized here for being reductive but Wenger’s system was goofy – it didn’t play to anyone’s strengths, it caused all kinds of problems in buildup and possession, and it didn’t even defend very well.

Especially Ugly

Monreal’s shoulder to shoulder challenge on Sterling was not a penalty and there was more than a suspicion that the referees wanted to even things up after missing the shoves on Sterling in the first half. But that could be a bit controversial for me to say.

What shouldn’t be at all controversial is that once again Arsenal suffer the linesmen getting the calls wrong. Lacazette was called for offside when a shoelace was deemed to be off. Fair enough. But how do we reconcile that with how Silva had half his body offside and it doesn’t get called? Is it just the Arsenal who seem to suffer these decisions?

And one last word here: it is possible to be angry at both the officials for blowing the call and at the entire Arsenal defense for not playing to the whistle. Arsenal have long looked to the referees to call the games fairly; to give out red cards when they are deserved, to get the calls on the lines right, to call penalties when we are fouled and so on. But the evidence suggests that this is never going to happen. I’ve been saying this for years and I’ll say it again: this club needs to just play like the officials are against us. Play like it’s 12 on 11. Ignore the officials, expect bad calls, don’t complain, give what you get, and use the officials as extra motivation to win matches.

Arsenal are never going to be handed a title. We are not Man U, Tottenham, Leicester, or Liverpool. If Arsenal want to win anything, we have to rip it out of their hands and take it away from them.

Qq

42 comments

  1. Our lads spend way too much time and energy trying to be the refs, and they have for years. It’s something I’ve long had an issue with, and I wish to god Wenger would stamp it out. The best games we ever played were those when we into it assuming the refs were going to screw us, and we played that much better because we just got on with it.

  2. Iwobi was instrumental to the goal scored.iwobi shud have started from d right or middle.our chances late 1st half and d goal came wen iwobi turrned out 2 of dias in d midfield before laying out to Ramsey I get why iwobi started but it shud have been for ozil.iwobi turned out kdb for d move leading to d goal.chek iit out

    1. Yeah that turn was beautiful. I’m not sold on arguments criticizing the Iwobi’s inclusion. He wasn’t that bad-apart from Ozil’s one run in behind, he seemed to contribute better than Ozil. I get why Wenger included him-more defensively conscientious, while still offering something going forward, but I would certainly have excluded Ozil rather than Lacazette to fit him in. Of course, the counter-argument would be that Ozil would’ve performed better had Laca been included, but I would be more concerned defensively with that setup. Also, kind of funny-before the match Phil Neville was arguing for Arsenal to play a back 5, and there was a moment where they showed Arsenal’s back line-sure enough, a back 5.

  3. Dear Arsenal fan, you seem to have missed Monrel? kicking Sterling’s foot into the floor, how I don’t know maybe you’re as selective as you complete prat of a manager. This ‘shoulder to shoulder’ challenge as you describe it dosen’t exist for a start he leads with his arm not shoulder but ask yourself why he’s playing the player not the ball? the ball is to his left not his right, that’s a foul. But because of your clear bias we’ll forget that, go back to the kicking of Sterling’s leg clear as day on replays 100% foul ex aresnal players agree penalty. The problem is that your poor manager is stringing a line, an excuse to deflect the more gullible fans like yourself. Why while this despicable little man was busy calling Sterling a cheat for being fouled didn’t he mention the pushes they got away with on both Sane and Sterling? Mug fans always have been your manager talks rubbish you believe, you could have gave away two other penalties you got lucky the offside put things back into balance .

    1. That was a penalty, I agree, but Sterling is in general a cheat, pretty much like how Rooney, Rashford, Dele Alli and Ashley Young are cheats.

  4. The whining from our manager is beyond the pale. Anyone who watched that match knew who the better team was. City deserved to win.

    What does Chambers have to do to get a game? It’s one thing Monreal gets the nod over a true CB, but now Coquelin? I love Le Coq, don’t get me wrong, but I’m really sick of CM’s like Elneny being used over actual CB’s like Chambers and Bielek.

    These line-ups are garbage.

    You didn’t talk about the abject lack of coordination in the defensive pressing. Sanchez was a disaster; I’ve always thought he was on a different page from the rest of the team when it came to our pressing. It left huge holes behind him in the middle.

    #WengerOut

    1. Chambers has just recovered from a hip injury, is back in training, and will probably be available for selection any time now.

      1. OK, must have missed that. I guess Bielek is hurt too. My bad.

        Stunning how we go from 6 CB’s (Mert, Kos, Gabriel, Holding, Chambers, Mustafi) at the beginning of the season to having to use Coquelin, Elneny, Debuchey and Monreal. The sale of Gabriel for a loss is looking completely non-sensical now.

          1. Is Bielik hurt or on loan (or both)? I really rate him, but seems like Wenger’s still not convinced he’s anywhere close to ready. Also, I wish we had kept him as a midfielder…

  5. Wenger’s choices set up the team to fail. I had less concern with Coquelin’s selection than Laca’s omission. With Per ailing, we really had very few options, and on paper, Coq’s skill set is fairly well-suited to the CB role. But not starting Laca is indefensible. His movement and intelligence, plus finishing ability, make space for Alexis, Ozil and Ramsey. And give them a target for their playmaking ability. Iwobi is young, energetic and plays well, but doesn’t have the chops for a big game like this. To beat MC you need one touch perfection – he’s not that guy.
    Yes, Sanchez was as bad as I’ve seen him. I think Ozil wasn’t awful, just not good enough. Without Laca in the middle, the whole fluidity of the attack was lost, and Ozil needs fluidity and space to succeed. That comes only with top class players in their right spots.

    But, one thing I did like was the players’ attitudes. This was not a quitting, surrendring Arsenal. They were in the match until the ridiculous third goal, and were pressing for an equalizer. They were fiery to the end, collecting yellows along the way, still chasing the ball to the end. The entire narrative changes if they can equalize. A tie at Man City and everyone would be saying, Arsenal are for real, they can compete. I saw in the players’ eyes a belief that they belonged, they could win and they weren’t going to pack it in. I guess that’s small consolation, but that was decidedly different than the Liverpool match. They had a fight in them that was lacking a lot last season (see Bayern UCL matches). The Spurs match will tell the tale of the season. If they bounce back, they have a spine. If they don’t, it’s time to clean house. Regardless, Wenger must go. He once again set them up to fail. I understand the players’ frustration.

  6. One thing that gets in a game like this is Arsenal’s poor use of tactical fouling. Guardiola’s teams have always done it, and I wish Arsenal did it more often and more instinctively, and closer to the opponents box.
    I recall distinctly Monreal lunging in to try to win the ball and but not getting either the ball or the player., thereby taking himself out of the play and allowing De Bruyne to start a break. And Kos’ yellow likely would not have been a yellow if he had decided to foul De Bruyne earlier. Meanwhile, City fouled before breaks could really get going with regularity. But no yellows, because the fact is the further away you are from your own goal, the less likely you are to get a card for a foul.

  7. “Suarez only took one shot in this match and only created two for his teammates.”

    Man – I wish it were Suarez playing for us. At least defenders would cower from the Jaws theme when he got near…

  8. For calling ex-players, Senderos would have the best chance as he is the only who is in America. In fact, he was in here Portland last night.

    1. I saw that! Missed a header from a corner for a goal.

      Little known fact; Senderos scored four goals for Arsenal FC and I saw one of them on a frozen February night against Blackburn. 2/11/2008 – during the last Arsenal title run.

  9. ‘Suarez only took one shot in this match and only created two for his teammates. He did get Ramsey the best shot of the first half but it was Ramsey who turned provider for Lacazette and Arsenal’s only goal.’

    Good to see Suarez settling in nicely at least 🙂

  10. This game is just one more needless example of why Wenger should have left 2-3 years ago.

    Nothing he can do to bridge the current gulf in class between the two clubs other than the one thing which we all know he’ll never (and should never) do: spend obscene amounts of money.

    But his starting XI? No Lacazette, etc. The whinging and whining post match? I’d like to lose inevitably a DIFFERENT way for once.

  11. When Wenger desperately wanted Cesc to stay, he made him captain.
    When he desperately wanted RVP to stay, he made him captain.
    When he wanted Theo to re-sign, he played him through the center.
    When he wanted Ox to re-sign, he gave him playing time that was not deserved.
    I can understand why Wenger wanted to talk up Ozil before the game but I can’t help but feel cynical about how he is going to “manage” the last few games of Sanchez and Ozil’s Arsenal careers.

  12. Man, I’ve missed The Good, Bad and Ugly. I vaguely remember a black page layout with white letters, or was it red on the sides? Also, I think it had a picture of Diaby kicking Terry in the face in the header.
    When I started reading this blog, I was 28 year old and my optimism for Arsenal was at it’s highest.
    Now, I’m married to a lovely wife, I have two kids and my 5 year old son has an Alexis shirt but it will be a long time before we see Arsenal win a PL title.
    Nevertheless, long may this site continue Tim, you have been an indispensable part of my Arsenal life for a decade and I’m looking forward to the next ten years.

    Also, Lacazette should have started.

  13. “I also want to know what Wenger is smoking not including Lacazette from the start. With Lacazette on the pitch, you free Alexis up, you free Ozil up, and while he takes space away from Ramsey (in the box), it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t need a lot of shots to score. Iwobi added nothing. This isn’t a condemnation of Iwobi. This is a condemnation of Wenger’s system. In a big game, you start your best players. The best three Arsenal attacking players are Alexis, Lacazette, and Ozil.”

    Amen squared .

  14. Question – we’re nearly a third of the season in and it’s pretty clear that

    a) we’re not winning the title
    b) we’re in 6th place and it’s going to be a helluva struggle to overtake any of City, United, Spurs or Chelsea to crack top 4.
    c) Sanchez and Ozil have not been highly utilized thus far in the first 11 games (due to injuries et al) and have not even been that productive aside from here and there. We’re moving through the League Cup and Europa competitions without even playing them

    Was it worth it to keep either then? My opinion is that we’d be in the same spot we are now if we’d sold Sanchez and Ozil and we’d be 70-80m better prepared to shop in the next window for help.

    What a disaster.

    1. Jack
      a) we were never going to win it
      b)it was always going to be a fight for the fourth spot.
      c) it was always a gamble to keep Sanchez and Ozil , but on the other hand £70-80m in the next TW won’t buy you much in the way of like for like replacement either.

      Yes, Arsenal maybe a “disaster ” but at least we have values.
      Don’t ask me what they are though.

      1. I don’t understand when people say we can’t get replacements for 70-80m… that’s still 70-80m off the price of the next big player. That’s like saying I’m not going to trade in my used car because the money I’d get for it won’t pay for the new car. No sh*t.

        What I am suggesting is that with Sanchez and Ozil we are arguably only very slightly better off than where we might have been without them. It’s a failed gamble. We might as well have sold them.

        And this obsession with making the top 4…

        Champions League group stages is worth what? 50m?

        That doesn’t cover the money we could have recouped on Alexis alone.

        And even if you made Champions League, got the 50m… you still are shelling out a crap load of money to replace Sanchez and Ozil.

        The strategy of keeping those two stunk. This club is lost.

        1. Right now, that strategy is looking a bad one. Even if we’re getting goals from them, and they leave in January/June, we’re still losing a significant chunk of value.

          I will say part of the obsession with the top 4 is that there’s a concern staying out of the CL will hurt our chances to sign players. The counterargument is that it didn’t really hurt Man U/Chelski but to that I would point out that both clubs are willing to throw money at players in a way we are not.

  15. 10 YEARS?!?!

    I’m sure I speak on behalf of many when I say hearty congratulations on a decade of doing this (was your daughter even born when you started this?) and doing it better than almost any Arsenal or even sport bloggers out there.

    For he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a …OK, you get the idea.
    Heartfelt thanks for doing this for so long and so well.

  16. Pretty much agree with everything in this one Tim. Really good piece.
    Two points I’d add/quibble with:

    1. I probably wouldn’t have started Iwobi either (and if I had, it would have been in a midfield 3, rather than a front 3, though even in midfield Wilshere and probably others would have been better options). However, as has been pointed out above, Iwobi’s receiving the ball on the half turn directly led to the chance that Lacazette put away for our only goal. If we’re going to praise Laca’s suburb finish, and give Ramsey credit for the assist, we have to give at least as much credit to Iwobi for that chance coming about in the first place. He didn’t have a great game but it’s not true he offered nothing.

    2. The criticism of Ozil and Sanchez: I expect by now I’ve got a bad reputation around these parts for defending Ozil no matter what. I’ll admit he had a bad game yesterday. But I think it’s odd to criticize him for being anonymous (and Alexis for his giving the ball away), and then to go on to say the following, without putting two and two together:
    “In possession, Arsenal struggled to hold on to the ball because there were so precious few combinations available for passes. It didn’t just happen with Alexis, every player on the team found themselves swarmed by periwinkle shirts when they had the ball. Ramsey, Alexis, Xhaka, all were easily dispossessed (see my by the numbers piece).”

    Here’s the thing: the (main) problem is the midfield. The problem is we are dysfunctional in the middle of the park, due to Wenger’s mismanagement and increasingly bizarre decisions (e.g. bringing in one of the worst passers in the team at an unfamiliar position as central CB, when City love to press a backline and our CB’s are tasked with building our attacks with their passing). With this level of dysfunction, what can we really expect Alexis and Ozil, two players whose roles are almost exclusively as attackers, to do? “Play better,” is the obvious answer, and sure, they could play better. But the amount of scrutiny they (especially Ozil) get is entirely disproportionate to the degree to which they contribute to the source of our problems.
    Alexis responds to the team’s dysfunction and raggedness by taking his distinctive, whirling dervish style to its vicious extreme and trying to do WAY too much–hence, giveaways. Many fans hate it, but he still gets an easy time from the media because, “at least he’s trying to make things happen.” Meanwhile, Ozil responds to the same dysfunction by taking HIS distinctive style to ITS vicious extreme: he loves to move where the space is (this often means moving away from the ball), so at its worst, this style means he “hides”. A team like City swarm all over the area of the pitch where Arsenal have the ball, so Ozil’s instincts tell him to move away to capitalize on the space City are leaving elsewhere. If our play was less dysfunctional, this could be a good move, as his teammates would then often find him in space. But when we’re struggling so much to keep hold of the ball, this is a bad move, and means Ozil is rarely influential in games when the rest of the team is really struggling. We need him to take control, and he does the opposite.
    But more to the point, the “hiding” thing suggests cowardice, and thus he gets absolutely excoriated by fans and media alike (especially Brits, who, let’s not forget, butchered a generation of their finest youth at the Somme just to prove they weren’t cowards, and all that).
    Is Ozil cowardly? I have no idea, since I don’t know the man. If he is a bit, that’s no better nor worse a character trait than Alexis’s apparent selfishness. But what I’m convinced of is that the main reason Ozil “goes missing in big games” is NOT because he’s a coward or a “bottler” or “lazy” or “weak”, etc, etc. It’s because our general build up play is a SHAMBLES, and in such circumstances his footballing idiosyncrasies mean he finds himself in good positions away from the ball far too often.

    So, in summary:
    The problem is the midfield. The problem is the midfield. The problem is the midfield. The problem is the midfield.
    And:
    The problem is the manager. The problem is the manager. The problem is the manager. The problem is the manager.

    1. Very well said. I am also an admitted Ozil apologist. When we struggle with possession he doesn’t get the ball much. Or has to drop deep to get the ball which means relying on a weak midfield to build up play once Ozil passes them the ball from deep. Which means we get dispossessed. Or he moves to space as you said, and we get dispossessed before the ball can get to him. He doesn’t dribble through an entire side. That’s not him. And when you play Alexis out of position, he will also lose possession. You don’t test out a new role against one of the best sides the EPL has seen in a long time! You dance with the gal that brung ya! God forbid we put the 3 best attacking players we have on the pitch in their best position! The first time we try it we score 5 goals. Granted it was Everton but at least we should try it rather than packing it in before the match starts. Venting complete. Apologies to all.

    2. Or in other words, Ozil doesn’t want to get “stuck in” as they say. It’s all well and good to move into space but when you see your team mates struggling to keep a hold of the ball, you need to get in there and help out. It’s called playing for each other. He may be an attacking mid-fielder, but a mid-fielder nevertheless. Yes, the midfield is a problem. Yes, the manager is the biggest problem. I agree with you with on everything else but this is a very tough league and we are going to struggle in quite a few games every season regardless of our midfield and manager. If your skill set doesn’t allow you to get involved when things aren’t going our way then that’s a skill set we can do without.

  17. As usual the Monday morning managers are out in force after a defeat,the basic facts are:
    City have £50Million+ players in every position,Arsenal have Three maybe four (if you include the £5Million buy Ramsey), We feed at a different table, City’s squad should be beating most other sides at home regualy as they are indeed, City have bought a very strong squad with no regard for the business sence, this is why under previous owners they played in the lower leagues and now owned by guys with unlimited cash they play at the top table,
    If City had genericly grown a side who could beat Arsenal, I would complain,when you can go out and buy a side then then it all boils down to cash spent.

    1. Football is a team sport, if I might state the obvious. The whole can be more than the sum of its parts if it’s the right parts, properly managed/coached. Just because City have assembled an all-star team doesn’t necessarily have to mean they are automatically a better team. Look at Spurs. They are competitive at the top level and have even fewer exceptional pieces to the puzzle – but they are better structured, better managed and better coached. Chelsea last year didn’t have a squad elaborately more talented than ours but got the job done.

      Too many excuses for this ownership and manager.

  18. LAGunner has spoken like a boxer..😂😂…I really won’t support iwobi in a midfield 3.. I’d rather have a Ramsey and wilshere on either sides and xhaka in the middle.. that way we have 3 defensive minded attacking players who are also incisive with long passes.. I’d play Walcott ahead of ozil in that match. I know no one would support that statement but he’s got a hatred for mancity I admire.. btw lacazette hardly shoots off target and would have him play against big teams until the 85th minute.. am I the only one that noticed that giroud has become more stupid than ever.. can’t wait for welbz to be back.. he’d have been a better option in a 442 formation with laca. .sitting Sanchez out.. what a shitshow

  19. City started their all three £50m plus players that were available on the day v Arsenal , while Wenger’s only £50m plus player started on the bench.

    Maybe it’s a good thing Arsenal don’t have more £50m players in their squad then.
    It might’ve been a waste of money.

    As for your “Monday morning managers” remark, at least no one’s presenting their opinions as facts( to the extend I can tell) , except yourself with your erroneous City players’ transfer fees.

  20. Coquelin – yeah… I still believe that Wenger is playing midfielders as the central defender because it’s a kind of half CB, half DM role. That player should be in the back line when we’re under pressure but stepping up into midfield both when we have the ball, to help break the press, and snapping into interceptions and tackles when the opposition are breaking at us. In other words, Xhaka shouldn’t be left isolated. But if that’s the plan, it’s not quite working out.

    Kolasinac had a bad game. On my ugly list for sure. Could not handle Sterling at all – stepped up and left him to Monreal for the penalty, and twice had to shove him over because he wasn’t in position, as Tim noted. It looked like City had identified that channel outside Monreal as a weakness and were using Sterling to keep Kolasinac home, two birds with one stone, it’s a little worrying that it worked so easily.

    The penalty was soft. However, Monreal did end up bundling Sterling over, and it was certainly more of a foul than Bellerin’s against Watford, where Bellerin “stayed in his own lane” and there was only the faintest contact – but which Tim thought was a clear penalty, so I guess I have no idea. I just re-watched both clips.

    Ozil – I agree with PFo up to a point, and that point is that Ozil is part of the midfield that is broken, so he shares some of the responsibility to fix it.

    All that, and we were clearly the inferior side, but we didn’t disgrace ourselves. I certainly feel aggrieved that yet again, in another big match against a good side where we are already battling the odds, the officials go and put a whacking big thumb on the opposition’s scales. I wholeheartedly second the above comments saying we should adopt a siege mentality in this regard.

    Last thing – I miss Santi.

      1. Yes, when I read about his surgeries and infection we should all stop with this fantasizing of Cazorla coming back in and adding to midfield. Santi Cazorla will likely never play for us again.

  21. Thanks for the 10 years of dedication Tim.

    For your testimonial year consider:
    1. Asking old contributors to write a piece.
    2. Revisiting one of your old pieces from each week and seeing how your thinking and writing has evolved.

  22. “The penalty was soft. However, Monreal did end up bundling Sterling over, and it was certainly more of a foul than Bellerin’s against Watford, where Bellerin “stayed in his own lane” and there was only the faintest contact – but which Tim thought was a clear penalty, so I guess I have no idea. I just re-watched both clips.”

    Greg, if you’re going to look for similar play and outcome you might look back at the Koscielny /Lewandowski penalty call , which saw Kos red carded for his actions against the Bayern player in the CL return leg.

    Koscielny’s charge had more of a chance of being perceived as legal challenge because he stayed on his feet, even though Howard Webb and others agreed with the Greek referee’s decision that there was no intention to challenge for the ball.

    Monreal’s challenge fails even at that basic level since he himself falls to ground.
    No referee will allow this sort of challenge any more ,otherwise players would throw their weight around the pitch barging shoulder to shoulder into opposition with no intention of winning the ball.
    Give this option to the likes of Deeney and see what might happen.

    I am a firm believer Arsenal don’t get some of the calls other teams get but this for me wasn’t any controversial call at all.
    People who say Sterling intentionally slowed down and put himself between the ball and Monreal, therefore he cheated, need to have a talk with themselves or perhaps even a youth level coach, because protecting the ball and space is one of the the basics of coaching at this low level.

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