Week 9: Arsenal rise to second in a mirth-filled weekend

Tacoma has the worst freeway congestion I have ever seen. Everything south of Fife all the way to 56th street is backed up, every day. The cars move, but slowly. There are no accidents. The problem is that there is a merge on from two different traffic streams in the middle of a curve and a merge off that is the only way to get downtown, then a bottleneck as there is a merge off significantly further down the road. It’s simply a design flaw.

The state of Washington just spent millions of dollars improving the biggest stream of traffic, Highway 16, and northbound traffic on that highway now backs up all the way to Union. They are spending millions more making the road wider down by the Dome. Another idea I guess, but I don’t think it’s going to work because no matter how many lanes you put in there, there will always be people going from Highway 16, cutting across the 38th street merge, and heading into downtown Tacoma. I know, because I do it, often.

There’s something here about the best laid plans and about spending money and not getting the results you want. I’m pretty sure this is a metaphor.

This weekend, Arsenal drew 0-0 against Middlesbrough but I expected that. Missing Santi Cazorla, as I have pointed out time and again, is a huge blow to Arsenal’s offense. He doesn’t provide a huge burst of stats, there’s no smoking gun in terms of his key passes or assists, but when he’s missing, Arsenal are quantifiably worse as I wrote in my By the Numbers column on ArseblogNews.

Cazorla’s injury is the reason why Arsenal didn’t win the title last year. Well, Cazorla’s injury and the fact that Arsenal couldn’t find a way to adapt. And that’s a key thing: you can’t always rely on having your best players in their best form, you have to find ways to adapt.

I was actually hoping that Özil would step up and fill Cazorla’s tiny little shoes. But the German was off the pace, he had run himself ragged getting a hat trick in mid week.

Alexis wasn’t tired and did his best to get Arsenal the winner but without a second or third player in the team, to help alleviate the defensive pressure, Alexis was often left to toil up front on his own. Boro had it easy as well, because Arsenal played in long crosses to the diminutive forward and despite his heroic leaping ability, he was always going to come off second in aerial duels with a team like Boro who thrive on aerial duels.

And if I sound sanguine about all this, I am. Arsenal are second on the table. Level on points with Man City and Liverpool, but behind on goal difference to City. And this weekend’s results were quite enjoyable, thank you very much!

Tottenham were held to a goalless draw against Bournemouth. City were held to a 1-1 draw with Southampton. Liverpool barely beat West Brom 2-1 and that brought them level on points with Arsenal and City. But the best moment of the weekend was watching Chelsea destroy Manchester United 4-0.

In case you’re new to the Premier League, Jose Mourinho is the current manager of Man U. Last season, he was the manager of Chelsea, a club he managed previously to great success, but one which he was fired from in mid season when he lost the dressing room.

Actually he was spectacularly fired from Chelsea as he thrashed around blaming every player for betraying him, blaming the physios, firing the physios, blaming Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (his favorite thing to do), blaming the referees and their “conspiracy” against Chelsea, and so much more. It was almost as fun to watch that unfold as it’s going to be to watch him do all this over again at Manchester United.

I only take joy in watching Mourinho fail because I have no compassion for Jose Mourinho. Mourinho is one of the biggest jerks in football. For example on his unveiling at Manchester United, he was asked if he had to prove himself and his answer was…

“There are some managers that last won a title 13 years ago. Some managers have never won a title. The last time I won a title was one year ago. If I have a lot to prove, then imagine the others!”

That “13 years ago” bit is a swipe at Arsene Wenger. At his unveiling at his dream job, the biggest managerial position in England, with the biggest budget to buy the best players, Mourinho’s answer is “what about Arsene Wenger?”

After that press conference Mourinho and Man U went out and bought the world’s most expensive hood ornament: Paul Pogba. To say that Pogba has been struggling and that Mourinho has struggled to find the best system around Pogba is an understatement.

And after the match, Mourinho did what Mourinho does: he threw his players under the bus. Chris Smalling (the United center back) was at the heart of all four goals and so in his presser, Mourinho said that the “globality” of the team was great but the defensive errors cost them the points. This is Mourinho’s entire coaching mentality, like Donald Trump, he sets himself up as the only one who has all the answers to all the problems: he’s the strong man, he’s the self proclaimed “special one”. And when players make mistakes, he publicly berates them for it. I think he thinks that’s motivating, but like we saw with Chelsea, it destroys players.

So, yeah, I take great joy in watching this human veruca fail after his summer and I hope he takes Man U down with him. After all, it’s their fault for hiring him, it’s not like they didn’t know who he was — he was fired last year from his job for being the biggest asshole ever!

United passed up the chance to hire club legend Ryan Giggs, who might not have been the best choice but who doesn’t have any baggage and would have been instantly beloved by the fans, and instead hired the most hated man in football because they thought he might get them a title. Well, it’s looking like they might have none of the benefit of Mourinho and all of the drawbacks.

It’s still early in the season and I’d be a fool to write off United. The top of the table is tighter than an oyster right now. Five teams have either 19 or 20 points and between 9 and 11 positive goal difference. The teams are Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham. The battle for the top four between those five teams is going to be epic. And of course, Arsenal dropping points to a “winnable” match like against Boro stings. But I do have to find joy in something and looking down there at Man U with their 14 points and +1 goal difference, sitting in 7th place, is pretty funny.



  1. I laugh at Man Utd; a team filled with square pegs and round holes begging to be filled. Witness;
    An aging and declining Wayne Rooney who can’t function as a single striker any longer and is a second-rate midfielder (at best);
    A mega-expensive Paul Pogba who is their version of Aaron Ramsey – a goldilocks player who needs a system and players around him that gives him free license to do whatever the fuck he feels like;
    A big-haired thug, slow of foot and thought, being played as shite cover for the weak centre-back pairing of the week;
    Daley Blind, a nice utility player and decent defensive midfielder being asked to play left back;
    Antonia Valencia, see above for D. Blind, same but a right winger being played at right back;
    Ashley Young, see above for D. Blind and A. Valencia;
    Marcus Rashford, a kid who should be played centrally shunted wide
    Antony Martial, a fantastic talent now being brought off the bench.

    I could go on.

    I think Man Utd are exactly where they are going to finish, 7th – there’s just too many problems for Mourinho to solve, and he never “solves” problems, he only finds the right players and motivates them to play defense. He doesn’t have the right players and is anyone listening to the cunt anymore? Does 7th get Mourinho fired at the end of the season? Oh God I hope so.

    1. Harsh on Aaron Ramsey. I think he’s got at least three positions under his belt:

      Right wing in a Coqzorla team
      Number ten in a straight-forward 4-4-1-1 (granted, this is for Wales, but you never know)
      Centre mid with an Arteta/ Xhaka (hopefully) complement

  2. Why are a lot of my comments vanished after posting, only to see them two days later? Do they go to a spam folder? The only ones that this doesn’t seem to happen to are replies.

  3. I had the same thought. Why didnt Ozil dropped to Cazorla position and Sanchez in no.10 while playing Lucas as forward. Too much shuffle but might have paid off… Instead Ozil was sometimes the forward.

      1. I think effectiveness of whole team is much more important than individual’s. Ozil has variety of qualities. In his early days he used to be the main outlet for counter attacks. We may lose out his attributes in final third but arsenal have other options in final third.
        Just a suggestion anyway.

  4. Quite enjoyable.

    If you haven’t, you should read Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do. It’s fascinating. One relationship he explores (I think) is between additional capacity (roads, lanes) & congestion. It turns out that new roads or lanes don’t alleviate congestion; more vehicles just start using those routes.

  5. Although i hate Mourinho i cant see based in which merits Giggs could have landed the Man U job. Even the guys at Swansea were smart enough to pass on him.

  6. Mmm I think you should stay on point a bit more than finding results of other teams funny. Let’s take a look at facts only Chelsea and Liverpool won from those five at weekend. Liverpool should have won comfortably against West Brom but ended up struggling and they lost to Burnley. As for city they are having a shocking run with errors costing them points here there and everywhere. Now let’s take a look at middlesborough the only team who has beat them by more than a goal is Everton. I think a point is not bad better than none, as for missing cazorla maybe but let’s also remember these players have played nearly 9 games in league 3 in champions league and at least three or four for their countries and were involved at international level over the summer. So occasionally performances won’t be spot on, still we had chances to win it and Valdes made some good saves. Yes ok so Cech also made some good saves but let’s be honest one team tried to win that match and one who had 9 men between their goal and 18 yard box for 86% of the time. Mourhino is not and never has been the manager many believe him to be. He has always had a budget to work with to help him achieve success. But last season we saw a rabbit in the headlightswhen things were not going his way, we will see similar this season as Utd struggle. In fact I have seen nothing from Conte, Guardiola, Mourhino, Klopp, to suggest we should be overly worried. Even the pressing we saw fro ponchetino and Spurs has dropped in last two games that energy level is slowly going. This will be a tough league this year and it’s down to players to prove they can be the most consistent of the title contenders.

  7. Just a random thought;
    You know who would be a ready made Santi Cazorla replacement in that deep lying playmaker role?
    The one and only $amir Nasri!

    He seems to be excelling in a similar role right now in Seville.
    If he’s available, I wouldn’t say no to him TBH.

      1. Hahaha!
        But I’d like to think that he has spent enough time in ‘football purgatory’ to at least deserve some kind of redemption..?

    1. Nasri is pretty old, but he’s younger than Santi. If Wenger thought he was good for the role I wouldn’t object. I have no idea how welcoming the team would be to his return, but I assume Wenger would have a good idea.

  8. The biggest problem with the 0-0 against Boro wasn’t so much the dropped points – although it looks like whoever wins this thing will need every last point they can get – as it was the knock to our momentum and belief. We will need every last player believing that they are part of something special here in order to win this.

    With all these new managers at new clubs, it looks like the league will be a race to see who can integrate their squads the best and instill the strongest level of belief in their respective tactics and systems. Wenger, Pottechino and Klopp have a head start over the others. Conte and Guardiola are showing signs but haven’t yet found consistency. If/when they do, they will be very strong. Meanwhile Mourinho looks like he is trying to beat his personal record for losing a dressing room. I’m not saying he can’t turn United around but it doesn’t look good right now.

  9. I feel a bit confused reading the manager’s post match comments on how we missed Santi in this match. Clearly Arsenal need an apt replacement for that position whenever Santi is not fit. In all fairness to Elneny, I felt he was really good throughout the match. Assured in possession, busy in his distribution and fairly quick to recycle the ball.

    From an observer’s perspective, I felt we lacked our usual wing play. Iwobi and Walcott never came to the party and we never looked like stretching their back line.

    Arsenal started the game well hurrying Boro out of possession & this should have been the time they scored. After the momentum shifted, we looked unlikely to score & as Wenger mentioned – its a jungle out there. Dropping easy points like we have done in the last few seasons will cause us grief, only a matter of time.

  10. Where to start …. well let’s save the best to last 🙂
    In your lean six sigma training I would hope you’ve already come across the principle of flow and the impact of turbulence & bottlenecks – traffic management is a classic flow problem and as someone has already mentioned, adding more lanes rarely resolve things, you just get more traffic. I’m guessing there’s no integrated solution here (public transport, cycle lanes etc) so my advice is either leave earlier (a classic lean intervention to smooth peak flow!) or find some good podcasts to listen to 🙂

    As for Arsenal, we get results like this every season. A quick look at the Invincibles season shows that we drew 0-0 at home with Fulham and Birmingham – in other words, let’s not overanalyse one result. Normally in these sort of games we (and other title chasing teams) get over the line somehow to claim the win but can’t always happen.

    Now the good stuff, this was only one year ago:
    Sorry for linking the Mail, but the photo of poor little Jose in the stands is priceless.

  11. I was in London last year and met a few ManU fans (and one of RVP’s doctors) They were all frustrated with Van Gaal and all but one wanted Mourinho. But none of them could tell why they wanted him when he doesn’t fix the complaints they had with LVG. I suppose they just wanted him because he wins trophies.

    And therein lies ManU’s problem. They aren’t prepared to accept where they stand as a club right now and so are unwilling to put in the time and effort required to work their way back to the top. They saw Mourinho as an easy fix and hounded Van Gaal out, even though he won them a trophy.

    I would’ve stuck with Van Gaal because it seemed to me that he was going about rebuilding the club the right way. But since I’m not a ManU fan and definitely not one of Mourinho, I can sit back and enjoy the meltdown. Long may this chaos continue.

    1. Agree about LVG, but mainly I wanted him to stay because he was an immensely entertaining person. I could watch him interview for days.

  12. Jose used to be a brilliant dick. Now he’s just a dick. Has a manager ever lost his mojo this fast? Lots of rumblings of discontent from my United friends, who, funny enough, were not that enthused about his arrival. I don’t know a single one (of many) who’d be sorry to see him go. Paul Wilson argues in the Guardian today that he simply seems to have lost his love for the game.

    All that said, he always get it up (and his teams up) for Arsene Wenger. That plus United having some strange hoodoo over us. Arsene admitted that losing to them was the turning point last season. Of late they seem to have something over us mentally when the match really counts. So I’ve seen nothing to change my belief that Jose’s and United’s next match against us will result in 3 points for United. As usual, I hope I’m wrong.

  13. Jose used to be a brilliant d—. Now he’s just a d—. Has a manager ever lost his mojo this fast? Lots of rumblings of discontent from my United friends, who, funny enough, were not that enthused with his arrival. I don’t know a single one (of many) who’d be sorry to see him go. Paul Wilson argues in the Guardian today that he simply seems to have lost his love for the game.

    All that said, he’s going to collect 3 points from his next game against Arsenal, because that’s just the natural order of things — both with Jose, and with United. We brain free against them of late. Even Arsene admitted that losing against United last year was the turning point. Jose gets it up for Arsene every time. I hope I’m wrong about the next game.

    1. The sun will rise in the east, rivers will flow downstream, Donald Trump will send out an offensive tweet and Arsene Wenger will lose to Jose Mourinho. Some things will never change.

      1. Charity Shield?

        All joking about it’s relevance aside, why are Arsenal fans so reluctant to acknowledge that game? Is was a genuine game of football that actually happened. It won us a trophy at Chelsea and Mourinho’s expense. The result properly got to Mourinho, and was arguably the first blow in the Mourinho Meltdown. It is an enjoyable game to acknowledge for a lot of reasons.

        Arsene has beaten Mourinho.

        It happened. I remember it.

        1. It’s also one of the ‘trophies’ that Mourinho counts. No reason to not count it, and though I recognise why people are negative about this, I just have a feeling they’re in for a pleasant surprise.

          I will miss the Spurs game though and I am worried about that one.

  14. It says a lot about Mourinho that Utd. has struggled to find any consistency this season. Granted they are still a little light on defense but they have enough quality in MF and attack to be challenging for the title. I still think it would be a bit premature to write them off so early but it’s good to be able to laugh at them while we can. The funny thing is one of the reasons they got rid of LVG is because they thought the football was drab – and then they went ahead and replaced him with Mr. Anti-football himself. I bet if they hadn’t spent a hundred million on Pogba, Jose would have been out there crying how they can’t compete financially with other clubs willing to overpay for players. The only reason why he hasn’t done is because he knows he duped the club into spending that money for Pogba. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if one day it came out that he has been getting kickbacks from a few of these high profile transfers.

  15. it’s been well over a decade since i’ve lived in the tacoma area (university place & fort lewis) but it doesn’t surprise me that the traffic is still bad. i don’t know if there is a solution, especially north-south traffic. i used to fight in this gym near the stadium and play indoor at a place just across i-5 from the stadium. more lanes isn’t the answer. they need more routes. even that won’t help. there are too many people that work but can’t afford to live north of federal way so they’re forced to live to the south and commute. when i was there, traffic was bad on i-5 from bellevue to south of fort lewis and tacoma is stuck right in the middle. it will take a very smart committee to come up with a solution for that mess.

    as for mourinho, i just don’t care to talk about him. i don’t love to see his demise and i don’t hate him either. what he eats doesn’t make me poop. i just don’t care. i’d rather come onto a soccer forum and discuss bad traffic in the pacific northwest than talk about mourinho.

  16. The Community Shield is not a serious trophy. If a team wins the Double or Treble, no one counts the Community Shield in that, satisfying as it is to win the traditional season curtain-raiser. Arsene needs to best Jose in the premier league, or the Champions League, where it really matters.

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