Wayne Rooney sideshow could be a welcome distraction from the football this weekend

Breaking news, footballer gets drunk.

Grown man and hair plug addict Wayne Rooney was pictured drinking until late into the night after celebrating a friend’s wedding while away on international duty for England. The English populace heard the news and lifted a half-closed, bleary, eye from their plate of chips, taken a huge swig of ale and screamed “how dare he???” at the television down their local pub. Thinking of the children, who were with their parents at the pub when this ghastly news broke, Wayne Rooney offered an apology which went something along the lines of “sorry you all saw me drunk.” It was an apology which was the moral equivalent of saying “next time, I’ll get blasted in private.”

I love that Wayne Rooney getting drunk is somehow a thing and that it’s distracting from the Man U v. Arsenal match. Wayne Rooney hasn’t mattered on or off a football pitch for three years, so naturally ahead of the biggest match of the weekend, Rooney has to rear his ugly head.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was asked and he showed the inherent class which has made him the most respected manager in the Premier League, saying that drinking isn’t as big a deal as it once was and basically saying “if you only knew how much they used to drink and smoke!”

Every manager has had his say on the topic with Pep Guardiola chiming in,

“No me gusta cuando la gente habla sobre mi vida privada, así que no comentaré sobre la vida privada de otros. Tengo mucho respeto sobre la trayectoria de Rooney. No tengo más comentarios al respecto. Yo fui internacional y algunas veces bebíamos. Cada uno es responsable de lo que hace. Somos lo suficientemente adultos para asumir consecuencias”.

Wenger, though, is the only current manager who had a first hand look at English football’s drinking culture. When he arrived at Arsenal in 1996 his team captain, Tony Adams, had just admitted to the world that he is a drunk. The team also had several notable boozers in Paul Merson, Lee Dixon, Ray Parlour, Steve Bould, and Nigel Winterburn. Ray Parlour recalls Arsene Wenger’s first double-winning season like this:

“I’ll always remember the first pre-season tour with Arsene Wenger [in 1997]. New French lads had come into the team like Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Gilles Grimandi. We worked our socks off and at the end of the trip Wenger said we could all go out. You know what we were like, we went straight down to the pub and the French lads went to the coffee shop.

I’ll always remember the moment Steve Bould [now assistant manager at Arsenal] went up to the bar and ordered 35 pints for five of us. After we left the bar we spotted all the French lads in the coffee shop and they were sitting around smoking, I thought how are we going to win the league this year? We’re all drunk and they’re all smoking, and we ended up winning the double that year.”

That’s 7 pints each for those of you who are mathematically challenged. And for my American readers, British pints are 22 oz, and typically the alcohol content, even of lager, is higher than most American beers. This is roughly the equivalent of 9-10 sixteen ounce pints of beer* or 12.8 twelve ounce cans of beer. So, assuming they sloshed some around, they drank a half-rack each in one sitting. That’s a lot of beer.

So, when Wenger says “things aren’t so bad, you should have seen it back in the day!” that’s what he’s talking about.

But sideshow Rooney is distracting from the real news about this match. Manchester United’s defense is in tatters. Chris Smalling is out with a broken toe, but he was also directly responsible for all of the goals United allowed in their 4-0 loss to Chelsea. United’s best defender Eric Bailly is out for two months with a knee injury. And in the crucial fullback positions, Mourinho has to choose between the disastrous Luke Shaw and the calamitous Marcos Rojo.

That said, we all know exactly what Mourinho is going to do. Like a wounded animal, he’s going to crawl into the den of Old Trafford and set up a defensive perimeter. Then he’ll use Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba on the counter attacks. Pogba will also be a threat in the air on set plays, so Arsenal need to mark him close, or not give away any corners. It will be impossible not to give away free kicks. Because one other thing that has changes since Wenger first came to England is that English players live to dive between the 18 yard box and the center circle. Any contact there earns a free kick in a dangerous area.

Arsenal for their part have injury questions as well. Influential right back Hector Bellerin is injured which will leave Arsene to select Carl Jenkinson in his place. Jenkinson will team up with Theo Walcott on the right and the two of them have a fiery history of not getting along well. Perhaps, Walcott’s new-found attention to defense will help solidify that half of the field.

Usually, against a 4-2-3-1, which is the formation Mourinho prefers, you find spaces around the 2. But Mourinho will snuff this whole thing out. This won’t be 4-2-3-1 but a 4-5-1 with the 1 dropping to harass anyone in the middle with the ball.

Up front, Wenger is probably going to miss Alexis Sanchez. That means either trying something innovative — which is impossible unless the team have been working on it all fall in secret — like putting Özil as a false 9 and moving Ramsey into the 10 (I’d actually switch those, personally) or doing the one thing that they have probably been practicing all fall and just reinstall Inanimate Carbon Giroud in the center forward position.

With Giroud in the team, Arsenal become predictable to defend and to counter. Wide play leads to crosses in the air for Giroud. Giroud also excels at “hold-up play,” which also means “slowing the ball down play.” And Giroud’s pattern on the pitch is to stay very central and not move much from that position.

Wide crosses by Arsenal are going to be easy for United to cut out, they are the larger of the two teams and Fellaini will probably be deployed as a sort of aerial destroyer in defense. And if Arsenal find themselves pressing their fullbacks forward in search of a goal, they will be vulnerable to fast counters down the wings.

All that said, I’m not expecting a competitive match. Both teams lose most of their players to international duty and this is the first match back after that “break”. That means both teams will probably be dead tired, don’t expect a basketball style game with both teams sprinting down the pitch on every play. The game will probably start frenetic, and if Arsenal can weather the storm, settle into a predictable pattern of United defending, countering, and Arsenal marching the ball back up the field.  You can flip that script if Arsenal score first.

We have seen this so many times in the past with Mourinho and Wenger, so this should be a predictable football match. No wonder the Wayne Rooney sideshow is getting so much press. It could be the most exciting thing to happen all weekend.


*One of the things I love about England is that their pint glass sizes are regulated by the government. If you go to a pub and order a pint, you will always get 22oz. of beer. There’s even a line on the glass to show the publican to pour the beer to at least that line. In America… pubs cheat all the time. So-called “pounders”, which are supposed to be 16 oz. glasses, will actually be 14oz glasses, a feat they achieve with thick glass. The glass looks the same and feels the same as a pounder glass but next time you’re out for a beer, check the bottom. Is it a thick bottom glass? It’s probably not a 16 oz. glass of beer. This would be unacceptable in England. I’m pretty sure the English people would vote to Brexit any publican who attempted such a dirty trick.


  1. This is probably THE game that I most fervently want us to win. And yet, given our recent history against ManUre and Mourinho, this is probably the game which I am most pessimistic of anything but a loss. Ugh.

    1. Of course, we all want a win. We all also know how unlikely that is. Moumou will be playing for a point. He’ll probably hold an open-top bus parade when he gets one.

      1. Perhaps our desire for a win is inversely proportional to our expectation of a win. Expressed mathematically below.

        (Desire for win) * (Probability of win) = k

        Call it Newton’s fourth law, the Law of Conservation of Arsenal Fans Angst.

  2. Beer trivia and Ray Parlour stories. It doesn’t get much better than 7 am Kickoff.

    Glass All Empty

    Although you won’t find it in regular dictionaries, apparently there’s an actual phobia in which sufferers experience fear of seeing an empty beer class. This disorder is called “Cenosillicaphobia”; the cure is Steve Bould who knows how to keep ’em coming.

    Back in the medieval period, beer was such an important commodity that it required quality-control workers — called “ale-conners” — whose job was to visit taverns and sample the beer in order to ensure the alcohol content was high enough so as not to rip off customers. I don’t know this little bit of trivia was ever covered in a Simpsons episode but surely this is Homer’s dream job.

    Finally, I wouldn’t be a loyal Canadian if I didn’t point out that John Molson founded his first brewery in Montreal way back in 1786, making Molson Canada’s oldest brewery — as well as the oldest in North America.

    Here’s to 3 points tomorrow. Cheers.

    1. First, great one, Shard.

      Second, I remember last year when Budweiser started selling their beer in cans marked “American.” A number of people (mainly Trump supporters…if there was ever a political beer this past year, it’s been Budweiser) thought it was an excellent marketing ploy…except that it’s a rip-off of the legendary Molson Canadian!

      1. I thought it was something to do with their legal tiff with the real Budweiser in the Czech Republic…

  3. Actually I’m having the “Friday Fish n Chips” special at my local and they’ve got a new beer here: Fuller’s India Pale Ale. First time I’ve tried it. Fuller’s also make another beer I enjoy, London Pride.

    If you like IPA I highly recommend the Fuller’s: great amber color, very citrus-y with a bit of spice, quite refreshing.

    1. 1NiltotheArsenal, Are you referring to Fuller’s Bengal Lancer India Pale Ale? Because that’s sublime. London Pride is also sublime, but these days I only get to try it at the Wetherspoon’s in Gatwick airport.

      1. Indeed Manx it is the Bengal Lancer IPA, very hoppy but absolutely scrumptious if you like a hop-forward beer. Surprised that London Pride is more widely available for you. Top class brew.

        1. I like London Pride in London, on cask. In a bottle, the CO2 changes the flavor. Maybe I should open a bottle one day and let it sit out. In a pint glass. To open up a bit.

        2. Where I live (Isle of Man), the only way I can get London Pride is in bottles. I’m with Tim: I prefer the cask stuff.
          Also, I’ve only had Bengal Lancer once: in a restaurant in Port of Spain, Trinidad. It left a lasting impression as one of the finest ales I’ve ever had. I can’t get it here at all.

  4. Ahm, OK, I’ll be the bloody pedant…an Imperial pint=19.21 US fluid ounces…still a shitload of ale to be tippling when you multiple that by 7 that equals a gallon plus 6oz…(134.47 oz)…yikes!!!

  5. a battle i’m looking forward to seeing is coquelin vs. pogba. it’s a huge surprise to me that deschamps hasn’t called up coquelin even once in the time he’s been the french manager. it shouldn’t really surprise me given that he played debuchy ahead of sagna and is now playing sidibe there. coquelin is an intelligent, hard-working player with decent technical skill; he’s a natural replacement for matuidi. maybe he can give france food for thought tomorrow.

    by the way, i’m predicting alexis starting and 0-3 arsenal win. de gea will make some plays but not enough. man united will look to attack at home, which should afford arsenal a few chances. rashford is a problem and martial could put jenkinson in card trouble. likewise, mata will provide a problem for arsenal. despite those high lights for man united, if arsenal fail to win, and the referee doesn’t play a significant role, it’s all their fault. we’ll see.

    1. Coquelin is a limited player. We all thought Wenger had upgraded the position in Xhaka, but clearly he’s not ready yet for the stopper part of the role.

  6. Giroud and the Ox proving that it’s a squad game and that they have their uses. This current Wenger side is like a Swiss knife and I’m loving it.

  7. Well, that’s 2 hours of my life I wish I could have back.

    I love Mesut, ad have defended him tirelessly, but he was terrible today. Did not seem up for the fight. Jenkinson (sorry son) is not Arsenal quality, and he and Theo simply did not click.

    Disappointing midfield selection — Elneny and Coquelin — hinted asa conservative approaching from Wenger. In any event, it totally lacked cohesion.

    We need to start Giroud. Teams have adjusted tactically to Sanchez leading the line.

  8. Didn’t deserve a point but I’ll take it nonetheless. Can anyone tell me why we bought a £35M midfielder to warm the bench for 80′? Or why, with a midfield that was completely unable to beat a poor United press, we didn’t bring on Giroud earlier to lump long balls to instead of Sanchez, Walcott, and Özil? Or why, for the second straight game we seemed unwilling to compete physically, losing one on one duels and second balls all over the pitch? Why we leave Montreal on an island? And finally why Wenger deserves his inevitable contract extension? I’m sure Wenger will emphasize the spirit and battling quality to come back but it’s impossible for me to ignore how crappily we played for the whole game, notwithstanding the one moment of brilliance. That was like searching through your dog’s poop for the wedding ring that he swallowed.

  9. Will take the point!
    Do not want to see Ramsey in the side again with Iwobi the better fit, but he will need rest from time to time.
    Arsenal seriously miss Bellerin and Sanchez was no where near ready to play at a high level today.
    Thought it was going to take a clean sheet to win today and it was true.
    D actually played well, and Coq was the best of that unit.
    Onward and upward.

  10. In recent years I would have welcomed a point at Old Trafford but this was disappointing.

    I really thought we had the mettle to take them on today especially with 75% of their starting defenders out-and no Ibra.

    Ozil was mostly MIA, our midfield was poor and Alexis bless him , ran around a lot to little effect.

  11. The only positive this day was my belief that as dull as we were playing, this season’s Team had a goal in them.

  12. I must admit that our play lacked conviction. We got a fair result in the end but need to be braver in order to become bona fide contenders this season. We’ve been too inhibited in the last two big games.

  13. Even worse is to see the Tiny Tots playing such good stuff. They came from behind twice today to beat the Hammers 3-2. Most disappointing.

    1. I don’t fully understand looking wistfully at a team below us in the table.
      If they are doing so much better than us why aren’t they above us in the table?

      The answer, I would suggest, is that while they are sometimes quite good,they have never been as good as us, at least under Arsene.

      Ill start looking enviously over at Spurs when they start finishing above us in the table and actually winning some trophies. Right now, I’m more than happy being on the Arsenal side of that fence 🙂

  14. Wow were we bad.

    I get the logic of Ramsey playing, and going with Elneny and Coquelin. But it clearly didn’t work. Ramsey didn’t give us any greater control in midfield, and the other two didn’t really provide any solidity in defense. We lost the midfield battle which is something that really shouldn’t happen to us with our supposed strengths there. Guess we still fall apart under any sort of press without a certain little Spaniard.

    Ozil was bad. It is these sorts of games where everyone is struggling that you want your star player to give you a bit of a boost. But he was basically anonymous throughout. Alexis gets a pass because he works hard but he didn’t trouble ManU much either.

    I liked Wenger’s substitutions but I would have made them much earlier. Still, a point at Old Trafford isn’t the worst, and to get more than we deserved makes a pleasant change from the usual way it goes, so I’ll take it. But really, we need to play better and with less fear.

    1. Our problem is mental. In the case of Spurs, we were too anxious. Against United, we were too tentative. Either way, our mindset at the start of both games inhibited our play and basically set a ceiling on what we could achieve on the match-day. I’ve found that, in the games Arsenal play against the elite, the first ten to fifteen minutes generally determine the outcome. For now, it seems we’re incapable of riding the initial storm and then taking over the game emphatically. I feared the worst yesterday when United were so aggressive from the get-go, snapping into tackles and pushing us back. We never recovered from that. That’s the kind of scenario in which an early tactical substitution (e.g. bringing on Giroud and Iwobi/Xhaka/Ox for Ramsey and Elneny)might have made the difference between a point and three. But Wenger hardly ever changes the shape of the team early in the game. Ramsey did neither of the things he was brought in to do well i.e. help assert our control over the midfield nor provide a target for Alexis and Ozil with good off the ball movement and runs into the box. Our game thus became static, even in the absence of our presumed major cause of attacking stasis, Giroud.

    2. Playing with “less fear” starts with the Manager and there’s no one in the PL right now who at times looks more traumatized during games than Arsene Wenger, especially against Mourinho.

      Sure, other managers get nervous and emotional, or down right clownish as in case of Mourinho, but no one looks less confident about what’s going on on the pitch than Wenger. When the camera cuts away to the bench ,it’s sometimes painfull to watch him squirm.

      A fear of roughing a few feathers or destroying a fragile psyche of his players is probably behind his notoriously late substitutions , even when it’s overwhelmingly obvious things aren’t working out.
      When was the last time a player was pulled before the hour mark unless injured? I can’t recall.

      Sometimes the line up is wrong , or maybe the other manager did something to render your line up ineffective and an early shake up is needed. You won’t get that from Wenger though.

      Imagine going into a fight or battle with a leader who has the body language of Arsene Wenger when things aren’t going to plan.
      Hardly a confidence inspiring sight isn’t it.

      1. Always interesting how people project their fears (and hopes) onto others. Leaving it too late once doesn’t mean he always leaves it too late. Being conservative in his team selection yesterday doesn’t mean he always is, or is fearful. (In fact he’s criticised for not being conservative at times. Mourinho was praised by Tim for playing for a point not too long ago.)

        There’s nothing ‘fearful’ about Wenger. He just plays the long game. Yeah, he doesn’t normally sub early. Why? Probably what you say does play a part. I don’t know. But it works for him. Mostly.

        There’s no arguing with his courage though. You don’t stick around for 20 years in top flight football in the xenophobic landscape of English football, and thrive at that, if you don’t have courage. He’s got the courage of his convictions, and that is pretty much what you need in a leader. Of course, he’s accused of being inept and stubborn because of this same courage, so it can be twisted to be a negative, just as anything else in this world. You want to argue that Wenger on the sideline exhibits and transmits fear, go right ahead. I don’t agree with you.

        1. Remember a few years back when Harry Rednapp, instead of playing Bale on the wing, played him as a no.10?
          Spurs lost, and Harry Rednapp blamed the fans, saying that he’d finally done what they were asking for and look what happened.

          Great manager.

        2. I have no fears or hopes to project on to others but I don’t necessarily disagree about much what you have said about Wenger.

          However, it’s much easier for him to play the “long game” and have the” courage of his convictions” when his boss sees the on the field winning as secondary, or perhaps even less so.

  15. When the midfield is static like that and playing through the middle is not working, Giroud makes us more mobile, not less, by coming in deep to hold up and release wide players. I think he does that job better than Sanchez. A good goal and a disappointing draw. The non-existing marking on Mata was a real blow.

    1. Yes. A really frustrating goal to concede. Poor defending there.

      Also, Monreal seems to be finding it harder and harder this season to deal with a speedy winger. To an extent that’s going to be true of all fullbacks, but he used to deal with it better. Maybe it’s time to start playing Gibbs, though he has his own shortcomings.

  16. A lot of us rate Monreal and rightly so, he’s had some great games for us. But he’s 30 now isn’t he and i think that is starting to tell.

    Also why play Ramsey on the left instead of Iwobi? Or place the Welshman squarely in midfield where he belongs.

    Already wondering how we’ll set up for PSG…

  17. I watched Dortmund v Bayern and what a difference in the match. I saw a tactical tweak to start the game, Dortmund playing with a back three. I saw Bayern adjust at halftime by pressing higher up the pitch to start the second game. I saw managers who made early substitutions to change the game dynamic. But I think what I enjoyed most was seeing two teams who were not overawed and inhibited by the occasion, but were instead energized by it. It made for compelling viewing.

    It’s most worrisome to me that more often than not in big matches this season–ManUre, PSG, Liverpool–we have been so tentative and fearful in our play. We’ve been lucky that despite playing as poorly as we have in those matches, we managed to limit the damage to a single loss. That won’t continue.

    1. This is a team still trying to come to terms with its own internal dynamics e.g. Alexis playing the false nine role and a new way to play in midfield without Cazorla. That’s why I’m relieved that despite all that we’ve kept pace with the other contenders. I expect performances to peak and then stabilize over the yuletide. If that happens, then I think we’ve got the depth this time to stay the distance.

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