Arsenal lose a close one to Everton

What does it take for Arsenal to lose?

1) Özil has to have a bad game. The one thing that bothers me about Özil is that he’s about as tough as frozen yogurt. Yesterday Seamus Coleman, whose name rhymes with “penis soulman”, went over to Özil and gave him a few shoves, just as the half-time whistle was going. There was a brief flare up of tempers and then… nothing. Özil didn’t really respond and put in a second half that should go down as one of his worst ever performances. I don’t think Özil should have punched Penis in the face, but he should have at least responded on the pitch. Instead, he went limp. He created nothing for his teammates. He created nothing for himself and his best chance for a goal, he swept high and over the bar. He had plenty of the ball, he just wasn’t able to find his teammates and they weren’t able to find him. Özil is going to have bad days, yesterday was one of them.

One more thing here about Özil: people often criticize Coquelin for his lack of.. lack of Öziltude. Coquelin isn’t going to be a silky smoothe footballer. He’s not going to lead Arsenal in key passes. He’s not going to take our set plays. He’s not going to be our dead ball specialist. He’s not even really going to get involved in Arsenal’s attack. And we accept that about him, at least I do, because he brings so many other qualities to the team. I also, then, must accept that Özil lacks Coquetude. So, I’m not upset that Özil isn’t a tough guy. But when he has a bad day, Arsenal lose.

2) Everton scored twice off headers and both plays were defended feebly. They aren’t a great corner team. Before yesterday’s match, they had only scored 3 total set play goals (not including pens). Meanwhile, Arsenal had only conceded 1 headed goals all season prior to yesterday. Then, bang, two in one game. Penis Coleman isn’t well known for his aerial ability, he has 7 total goals scored off headers since 2009. Ashley Williams isn’t known for his heading prowess, he has just 5 headed goals since 2011. But if you leave players unmarked, they are going to score.

I actually don’t think Arsenal did much wrong for the Coleman goal. Walcott comes out and puts pressure on Baines, Baines has to switch to his right foot, and he’s primarily a left footed player, but is able to play in a tremendous ball, McCarthy gets away with a little shove on Koscielny, knocking him out of the way to challenge for the ball, and Penis jumps up to claim. Goals like that are going to happen.

The second goal, however. Wide open headers on corners make me tetchy.

3) The referee has to swallow his whistle at the end of the game. I saw Wenger was mad at Mark Clattenburg for awarding the corner for their first goal and that Ronald Koeman took it upon himself to gloat about beating Mr. Wenger. But for me, the real crime in this match was Clattenburg not calling the penalty at the end when Alexis was obviously fouled.

4) We have to be extra flat for long periods. Like I mentioned in my By the Numbers piece, Arsenal had long stretches where they couldn’t create a shot.

Koeman likes to brag about beating Wenger because over the 12 matches they have played head to head, Wenger has only won twice. Koeman has won 5. Worse, Koeman has won three of the last four meetings between the two managers. He achieves this glorious result by playing that kind of anti-football that Arsenal hate. That all teams hate, really. Wenger’s team likes to play vertical and managers like Mourinho and Koeman limit Arsenal’s verticality by packing the defense. Wide play is always low percentage, but I do wonder if Wenger might consider starting Giroud in the next match against either Mourinho or Koeman. It might be nice to have a big battering ram in these types of matches.

Ultimately, though, Wenger’s men couldn’t get attackers into good positions and were unable to deliver that final ball when they did. I remember several passes from Sanchez to Özil which were just inches off. That’s all it takes for the team to be flat.

So, while Koeman is claiming the bragging rights, he really should be careful. This was a lot closer game than he made it seem. If Özil’s shot goes in, if Iwobi’s shot goes in, if Baines doesn’t put in the perfect cross, if Crapenburg makes the correct penalty call, if any of the shots at the end of that match go in, this is a much different result.

Anyway, it was a tough loss but Arsenal just need to regroup now. Man City this weekend where we will see a much different game.



  1. If we win at City, I won’t mind this result at all. I just don’t want us to lose back to back

    1. Exactly! if we pick it up again then the last 10 results with that blip of a loss will be very stomachable.

      in hind sight would have been nice to start giroud and rest alexis for saturday. hey ho.

  2. After all the run we had till now, this defeat truly hurts. Here hoping the team can make it right again this weekend, we really could not allow a nine points gap between us and Chelsea.

    Another thing Tim, read reports of how we are bidding for Draxler and how Ozil is the one pushing for that deal. In one of your article in pre season, you are 80% hoping for us to capture him. But with the emergence of Iwobi, Lucas signing and upturn in the form of both Theo and Oz, do you personally think we should still go for him?

    1. Draxler could be gotten for CHEAP right now. He’s having a terrible year.

      I’d take him. He’s a class player in poor form. Class never goes away.

      1. Great point about Coquelin.
        We’ve waited years for a ‘proper DM’ and now that we finally have one it’s frustrating to see the criticism he gets for not being Viera.

  3. Some have touted Koeman as a potential Arsenal manager. While he had a stellar playing career, he hasn’t pulled up trees as a manager: I don’t think much of the league titles he won with Ajax and PSV in Holland. Plus he’s one of the most smug personalities I’ve seen in top flight football, a Dutch Alan Pardew basically…The communication between Koscielny and Gabriel has to improve though and Bellerin’s match sharpness will hopefully return quickly. Perez has to seriously come into the equation for the big matches. He brings different qualities to our offense. Positive side to the Everton game: we kept Lukaku under wraps and were not seriously open to the counter attack against a team with pacy players like Lukaku, Lennon and, later, Mirallas.

  4. At the beginning of the season, before the first game I wrote here that I don’t expect to do well in the League because every season a “modern” manager manages to outwit Wenger and this time there are plenty of them to choose from and they can seriously damage the Arsenal points board.

    I mentioned Klopp, Koeman, Conte, Mourinho, Pochettino and Guardiola and so far Wenger has failed to beat four of them, taking only two points out of possible twelve, and I seriously doubt we will win at the Etihad, Aguerless or not.

    In fairness, Wenger did manage to beat Chelsea, but don’t count against them beating us at their place.
    Perhaps we can beat Liverpool at Anfield (and it’s a big perhaps) since the defence problem we had has been (probably and fingers crossed) rectified, but so far it doesn’t seem like Wenger has managed to outwit and dominate the top class managers who are all competing for the same spot as us.

    So far we have been flying really well, but there is a very serious possibility we will find ourselves at the familiar 4th place after the weekend ends. In fairness, we have a rather easy schedule of three or four games after that, but I wonder what the implications of losing against Liverpool and drawing against Tottenham at home will be at the end of the season.

    1. Too much is made of the new-breed super managers. Big games turn on big moments. Had Ozil turned in his very decent chance early in the second half, we would probably have beaten Everton. I also don’t think you can lay the blame for Koscielny’s penalty-conceding foul on Mousa Dembele or Iwobi’s glaring miss in the game against Spurs at Wenger’s feet.These things can happen and not only to Arsenal or Wenger. If Kevin De Bruyne hadn’t missed from two yards out against Chelsea, Man City would’ve gone 2-0 up on Chelsea and probably won the game. That would’ve left Conte with defeats to Klopp, Wenger and Guardiola. Imagine the narrative! What of Mourinho’s record in the “big games” this season?The truth is that football is probably more a game of ifs and buts than most other sports. The managers’ roles are important but their influence waxes and wanes with the fortunes of their players. Most times when Arsenal score the first goal in these big games, they get a good result.

      1. Yeah, but in that case we really are missing those big moments because we haven’t managed to beat Liverpool or Tottenham for the last two or more years, and if I recall correctly, a single win against Chelsea and United in the last 4-5 seasons. A couple of wins perhaps against City, yet a worrying record against teams like Swansea or Southampton who got younger managers.
        I would say that certain moments change games for sure, but that our problem lies more in something else.

      2. I agree.
        Some Arsenal fans can be extremely quick to give credit to other managers for one off results or how their modern ways put Arsene to shame, but come the end of every season you’ll find he’s finished above 99% of them, all the while presumably being set in his ways and tactically naive.

  5. The loss to Everton was not at all surprising. I’ve felt for a little while now that our recent scorelines have somewhat flattered us. We’ve been wasteful in possession and a bit desperate in defending. That’s been my take. But yes, Ozil was terrible yesterday. Felt for him.

    I read today on Arseblog that there have been some serious overreactions to the loss. I guess because I’m not on Twitter I didn’t see it, but extreme levels of disappointment are invariably proportionate to expectations, and this is what surprises me. That is, I just don’t understand why there are people who continue to believe Arsenal should / will win the title. We haven’t looked like winning the title in a decade, and our chances have never, to my mind, been a matter of player personnel.

    I guess what I’m saying is that while I never like to see my team lose a game, it doesn’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. We will probably finish in the top four, and the cycle will begin again next year. Perhaps Arsenal’s predictability, once so frustrating for me, will become a source of comfort. Whatever it does mean, I can tell it’s helped take the sting out of the occasional loss.

    1. I agree with you that people’s sense of disappointment is related to their expectations. I know it’s not fair or accurate but whenever I see people talking before the season starts about how great our team is and how we’ve a good chance for the league I usually think that those are probably the people who will be the most abusive and angry as soon as we lose a game or two.

      I don’t think I’m quite as pessimistic about our chances as you are but I definitely approach every season with the opinion that if we qualify for the Champions League then I’m generally satisfied overall. I know some will see that thinking as exactly what’s wrong with the club but it’s really just about minimizing my own personal torment. I want supporting Arsenal to be a positive experience because otherwise what’s the point?

      Maybe if we had the best team and the biggest budget i’d think differently, but we don’t.

  6. What will determine Arsenal’s fate in the major competitions this season is our defensive rigor. Our appetite for clean sheets is not keen enough. Of all our midfield options screening the defense, only Coquelin seems to have the desire to keep goals out at all costs. Bellerin, Koscielny and possibly Mustafi will all do whatever it takes to keep a clean sheet. As for rest of the team…nothing. Contrast that with Chelsea for instance.

    1. How do you create this Borg mentality of keeping clean sheets while also trying to play attacking football that’s easy on the eye? That is very, very difficult. Like it or not, Arsene is married to this style of play where our ethos is attack first, defend later. Really the only way we can hope to have clean sheets is if our defenders are comfortable with the way our team plays. Being an Arsenal defender is no easy task but I think as long we have quality defenders on the field, we will mostly do fine. I don’t think Gabby is up to scratch though. He looks nervous at times and a moment’s hesitation is all it takes to throw off the entire defense.

  7. I gave us a 5% chance of winning the title after Cazorla got injured so my expectations are pretty low and performances such as yesterday, especially away from home, aren’t out of the norm for us. We played like absolute garbage at Old Trafford too but were very lucky to come away with a result.

    I agree with Bunburyist’s sentiments above. This, I believe, is Wenger’s ceiling – and to be honest, I think given the quality in the squad we are performing at par. To go the next level from here, we will either need an upgrade on Coquelin – which I hate saying because I really like him but despite his qualities he is limited – or we will need an upgrade on Ramsey who despite his potential seems to have a mental block in playing the position correctly. Would have loved someone with the technical prowess of Gundogan or Verratti on the side – I think someone like them partnering Xhaka would really bring out the best in this team.

    1. IF we could get Veratti, I would sell Wilshere instead of Ramsey, and try to convert Ramsey into our version of Thomas Muller. He’s got the desire to score goals and the knack of making the right runs. He’s just got to be more focused on the defensive aspect. The same problem he has in the centre. But he’s more effective further up front. Though we’re not getting Veratti, so it’s all moot.

      Now Draxler. That might be interesting. A left sided attacker. Can possibly also play the Alexis role if required. Not CL cup tied. A January deal might just be the ticket. Too many players for those front 3 spots, but it only needs to hold for 5 months. After that one or two could be sold/loaned out etc.

  8. I must say that Chelsea’s intensity and professionalism currently are extraordinary. They’ll take some beating. We need them to either run out of legs or lose players to suspension or injury.

    1. I don’t think anyone’s catching Chelsea this year. They have pretty much the same squad as the one that won the title two seasons ago, except now with a better manager. I would be genuinely surprised if Arsenal finished 2nd. 3rd is a reasonable goal.

      1. Chelsea are looking like a machine. Ten EPL wins on the trot. If they do win the EPL, they could send a cheeky thank you card to Arsenal for sparking their seminal formation rejig with that 3-0 spanking! An odd quirk of fate: If we’d won that game 1-0, most likely Conte would’ve persisted a bit longer with the old dysfunctional system. Poor Arsenal: Even when we win, we seem to lose.

    2. It’s a long long season. We’re not even at halfway yet. It is so far from being over that it isn’t even worth talking about the title at this stage. For Chelsea or us.

      All we can ask is that we challenge all the way, which I think we’ll do. After that, the vagaries of football can’t be legislated for. I feel more confident of beating City than I was of Everton. The main worry is Mustafi’s replacement. Gabriel looked skittish at times. Maybe Holding should start? I know he made a mistake against Basel that led to their goal, but watching him I couldn’t help but think he’s a future great.

  9. An exceptionally poor mid-week for Arsenal as the rest of the top six are all currently poised to claim maximum points.

  10. There appears to be something structurally not quite it with the current Arsenal team. That something revolves around the fact that though Sanchez is a striker, he is not a centre forward. It will be absolutely not out of place if his role so far this season is described as a #10 who is prolific at scoring goals and even more prolific at doing his job of creating chances.

    Why should he not be given this role that his play has so clearly defined? The answer is of course that Ozil is already there. But, imo, all things put together (creating chances, scoring goals, pressing, aerial balls, defending, etc) I would say that Sanchez is a more effective #10 than Ozil and the only reason why he should not supplant Ozil, is that Ozil anywhere else creates a problem of its own unless …..

    @ last post @ TeeSong’s comment, “Ozil doesn’t defend, he’s by far our worst defender. Playing him up top with Sanchez somewhat mitigates that although our pressing from the front does suffer a bit. Out wide, the fullback will receive no help whatsoever. Only way to play him out there is if you play three athletic disciplined central midfielders ………..” This means a 4:3:3.

    Do we have the right personnel for a 4:3:3? Yes we do. Our central midfield is where we are richest, Coquelin, Carzola, Xhaka, Ramsey, Elneny and maybe even Oxlade.

    Sanchez needs to be at the front centre but not isolated. That is the role that fits every aspect of him. Wizard Ozil must be accommodated. To accommodate him demands restructuring to a 4:3:3 formation. It might mean less goals at both ends of the pitch which in fact is likely to guarantee greater consistency in results. More importantly it would also accommodate the fact that we don’t have a world class centre forward (not striker, mind you). Sanchez at centre forward is an anomaly. A not-quite-it.

    1. I don’t think 4-3-3 is a bad idea, but not quite for the reasons you cite.

      Basically, I completely disagree with you that Sanchez is a better no 10 than Ozil. He can pass brilliantly at times, but his choice of pass is still markedly worse than Ozil’s, giving the ball away too much (and not just because his passing can be more ambitious, which is true); he also is one-footed in a way that means he turns too often to the right and occasionally misses a pass the other way; obviously Ozil is similarly one-footed, but he doesn’t seem to have this weakness in the way he turns (having said that, putting Sanchez in the centre makes this weakness much less pronounced; when he’s on the left it’s gallingly obvious). Plus, he lacks a bit of positional nous/discipline, in comparison to Ozil. Ideally, we keep getting the best out of both of them by playing them close together up front in something like the way we are at present.

      What I will say, in partial agreement with you, is that when we’ve had bad performances this year, it’s often been the case that Sanchez is dropping too deep/wide, and Mesut is “going missing”. This is a really tired football cliche that morons drag out to complain about creative players whenever the team struggles, but in his case it’s more true than with most, and I don’t think it has to do with him being lazy or mentally weak, but rather that he’s always looking for where the space is; this is one of his great strengths, of course, but when the team is struggling it means he often looks like he’s running away from the ball, rather than thinking “right, let me get on the ball as much as possible and drag my team through this.” With Sanchez playing centrally with him now, we’ve seen Ozil be transformed with his running in behind, but I thought against Everton (and in some other games of late) he was doing this too much. I’m not blaming Sanchez for this; I think they both have to take a share of the blame for the lack of balance. But in any case the default should be Sanchez looking to get into the box and Ozil looking to create, while the reversal of roles can be the occasional surprise that throws teams off.

      In games when the balance is off, Sanchez looks to get on the ball and operate mostly *outside* the penalty area (which he’s good at, but more than anything we really need him being the Sunderland/West Ham goal poacher Alexis), and Ozil looks to fill the vacant space by making constant runs behind the defense and into the box (which he’s proved he’s good at, but he’s still no striker). Consequently, we look like we’re playing 4-4-2 more than ever (or 4-2-4 even). But if we play that way in 2016, that will only work if at least ONE of our wide attackers is a bit more of a midfielder, capable of shifting into the centre, clever and calm on the ball, positionally intelligent, and defensively hard-working (please not Ramsey!). I think Iwobi can be most of those things most of the time, but it’s a huge ask at his age for him to play this crucial role in the team every game. Walcott will never be any of those things (besides defensively hard working, most of the time). The Ox could play that role, but he has to get over his lack of confidence that makes him panic and try difficult things rather than keep it simple, and he has to generally mature in his in-game intelligence. Plus, I think he’s still strongest as an out-and-out winger on the right, where he can mostly hug the touchline, which is why at present the Ox and Theo really should be competing for one spot most of the time, rather than playing together.

      So, these points make me think a 4-3-3, with, e.g., Xhaka, Ramsey, Coquelin (Elneny deputizing, and even Iwobi or Ox coming in if they can adjust to the new role) as a midfield three. Plus Alexis, Ozil, and one of Theo/Ox/Perez/Welbeck up top (Alexis nominally in the middle, but lots of interchanging of positions with Ozil also given lots of room to roam and come central), is maybe the way to go. We are much less likely to lose feisty midfield battles with this formation, and Ozil and Sanchez still get to take up the positions they want to make the magic happen further up the field. Giroud is still Plan B. Sorry Ollie 🙁

      But it doesn’t seem like Wenger agrees, so I guess this long post was a waste of my time!

      1. After writing all this, I realized that Tim Stillman makes many similar points in his latest article on Arseblog (though he doesn’t discuss the 4-3-3 option).

      2. We need to give up on these antiquated notions like 442, 433, 451, and 352. Instead we need players covering spaces on the pitch without the ball and finding spaces with the ball. Overloading the opposition in possession and staying tight out of possession.

        Our current system is a 442 out of possession and a 3214 in possession. In practice this means that at times the Arsenal midfield gets overwhelmed and struggles to get the ball forward. That’s what happened against Everton. Against Pep Guardiola, we will see an entirely different kind of bossing: they will dominate possession. But if we can stay solid in our two lines of four it’s damn hard for them to find space and easy for us to hit them on the counter. Don’t be at all surprised to see Arsenal get a win against Guardiola.

        1. I agree that focusing on systems can be unhelpful; basically the numbers are just a very rough short hand. But there is a real difference between playing with a dedicated number 10, in addition to two wide attackers (thus four total “up front”, basically), versus playing with 3 central midfielders (and thus only three up front). Ozil is obviously less a central midfielder this year than he’s ever been, so I think we need to compensate by playing someone else more in midfield. This can be done by using roughly our current formation, but making sure that one of the wide players (the Ox if he can play smart, but more naturally, Iwobi) has the remit of dropping into pockets of space in the middle and helping build up play. Or it can be done by tweaking things slightly and playing an extra body in central midfield (with no suggestion that they’re playing as a wide attacker who drops in, a la the largely ineffective use of Ramsey on the right). Playing the way, e.g., Liverpool play (we can drop the numbers talk entirely, if you want), would mean us having an extra body in central midfield, and Ozil playing as a number-10-type-player in roughly the manner that Coutinho plays, i.e. nominally wide left, but since both Ozil and Sanchez float all around the attacking area as they please, I don’t think this would seriously inhibit the German. This would be different than what we currently do, and I think it would make a difference to our play, i.e. would make us more solid, with and without the ball (though perhaps with its own limitations, of course).
          I don’t think there’s anything antiquated about noting this difference.

  11. Tinkering would be the wrong response. The team as it is set up now has been flourishing, looks pretty well-balanced and stable. After that it’s all about concentration and the intensity of the performance – and fortune, which can go either way. Our performance was not as intense as theirs, our concentration dropped at key moments, and they had some fortune. That’s about the limit of my analysis. Beyond that, Wenger’s comments about not following the plan defensively make me think that Gabby is going to be on the end of a severe talking to, or else Holding will start against City.

    The loss is a blow: however, PSG away it wasn’t. We were not terrible. I don’t really see the point of following a team if you don’t have some level of hope, faith and excitement, itt’s a personality thing and I apologise for it, but gloomy and tired predictions of mediocrity after every setback rub me up the wrong way. If the manager or the players responded the same way we would quite rightly slaughter them for it.

    1. Yes and thats why we are slaughtering the players and manager right now. Coz the team responded in same mediocre way in a must win game. The gap is 6 points now and as Wenger says when the gap goes beyond 10 points one is out of race and we are nearing that position. Already we lost some valuable points in november in the games we drew.

  12. I’m finished with Theo , honestly it was hard enough but if the team has to carry a passenger and play against a committed side fighting for their live in front of a home crowd that’s the last thing you need. Especially for the first, Theo stops that good delivery we go into half time one up. Instead like Bambi he can’t stop or turn to make it hard for the inswinging delivery. Faaaaaaark, the second was OZIL at his worst, uninterested. We may still beat city. I think the margins are so small we were not that bad on Tuesday but we should have closed it out, you won’t swashbuckle everytime but at least you can close out a tight situation a la chelsea vs relegation sunderland fighting for their lives.

  13. Completely agree. This does put a lot of pressure on Sundays game though. If we lose that and Chelsea win their game it’s 9 points and losing 2 games in a row could also dent our confidence and put us on a poor run.

  14. @fzza: As well as Chelsea managed the game with Sunderland, they still required a very good last minute save from Courtois to walk away with three points. They also missed a lot of chances yesterday. However, what was evident was their constant intensity and urgency. They never allowed Sunderland a moment’s respite. That’s what being professional is all about and it has been a feature of their game (and Liverpool’s to a lesser extent)all season, even before they changed to a 3-4-3 shape. We, however, have a disturbing tendency to coast through portions of games and this at times costs us points or clean sheets. Having said that, we’ve played considerably more games than Chelsea (and even Liverpool) this season and these extra miles on the clock can make a difference when you’re playing away from home against super-motivated teams like the Everton side we played. We can’t envy Chelsea and Liverpool their lighter work load which is essentially a consequence of their poor league placement last season. We can however emulate their intensity. Considering our continued involvement in Europe and in the FA cup, one sure way of achieving this is by being bolder with our use of squad players. From what we’ve seen so far, Holding can feasibly play some home games in the EPL. Gabriel, Gibbs, Perez and Elneny can and should be given the opportunity to contribute more. Wenger has the tools he needs. He just needs to have more faith in the less stellar ones.

    1. Why can’t we envy them their lighter workload?? I mean, I get it, we like being in the Champions League.

      But (and this will, of course, sound like sour grapes, but I honestly just think it’s the truth) I think the difference between having to play European games and not for a title challenge is HUGE, and no one is truly acknowledging how much of a massive advantage this is (in spite of plenty of people mentioning it). For one thing you’re fresher, of course; for another, you have more time to prepare tactically for the next PL opponent. But it also makes it much less likely that you’ll pick up injuries, which in turn means a settled side. Chelsea have had an almost entirely settled side since we played them. Leicester had an entirely settled side practically the whole of last year. Ditto Liverpool in the second half of their Suarez, almost-year. A settled side that begins to win breeds tremendous momentum.

      Imagine an American sports season where a couple of teams had to play additional games throughout the season. You think anyone would accept this as ok?? It obviously makes a massive difference to the outcome of the championship, and as such is fundamentally unfair. Period.

      The thing is, no one quite knows what do say about this (dis)advantage, because it’s SUCH A NEW PHENOMENON. Before about five years ago, there really were only about 4 teams who had a realistic shot at winning the title (now there are six, plus very good teams like Leicester who could always threaten an amazing run) so the fact that those 4 teams had the disadvantage of playing in the CL wasn’t really an issue; the smaller clubs could just point to the big 4’s world class squads and huge wage bills and tell them to stop complaining. In the old days, say from the early 90’s back, there was much more parity in the league (I mean, Liverpool won it a ton, but below them, there were a lot of teams that would yo-yo quite a bit in league position), but there were also way fewer European games to play. In the 90’s that was starting to change slowly, but there was still only 1, and then 2, teams who qualified for the CL, and for several years the English teams would typically struggle and not make it very far in the competition. So at no point in English football history have the demands of the European Cup/Champions’ League given such a disadvantage to the teams competing in it, relative to other English teams who have a realistic chance of winning the domestic title.

      This is what worries me about Chelsea, more than anything else: they have no distractions, and can keep playing virtually the same team, game in and game out. It’s not just about physical freshness, it’s about building momentum, a fear factor, a head of steam, and boy do they have a head of steam now! (In spite of all this, I still think that, even if we do go 9 points down this weekend, there’s still way too much football to be played to say we are anywhere close to out of the title race already.)

  15. just watched the game. to watch a game, knowing the result, takes the edge off but allows one to be more measured with analysis. arsenal missed cazorla/arteta/mertesacker yesterday; a player who knows how to keep it tight in the back in tough games. that bit of guidance is crucial to winning a game like tuesdays.

    gallas was my favorite. i remember arsenal would be getting overrun and he would demand the ball and draw a foul. then he would lay on the ground for like a whole minute. the physios would come out with their magic spray and even request a stretcher after a while. then gallas would get up under his own power and take another whole minute to limp off the field. it was so funny. i used to rewind the dvr just to see how long it took from the time gallas was fouled until the time the game restarted. it was always between 1:40 and 2 minutes. during that time, arsenal regained their composure and the opposing team completely lost their momentum. this is the epitome of gamesmanship and gallas was a real gamer. there were times on tuesday when arsenal needed a gamer.

    chelsea’s mvp may very well be cesc fabregas. in tight games, that kid has won like five or 6 games for chelsea this season. he’s either scoring or assisting the game winner. that’s like twelve points he’s won for them and he’s not even a regular. that’s crazy. rumor has him going to italy but i don’t think conte is a fool. if i’ve noticed cesc’s contribution, certainly he has. cesc is going nowhere.

  16. as for veratti, lovely player. i remember mentioning him on this site when ancelotti first brought him to psg. he wasn’t always a regular in the side so i was big on arsenal swooping for him. however, once he became a regular, i abandoned my fantasy of him coming to arsenal.

    as talented as veratti is, he still needs an older head along side him. i’ve seen him play with rabiot instead of matuidi or motta and he’s looked as bad in midfield as arsenal’s midfield has looked at times this season without cazorla. people are ogling over the idea of veratti and xhaka in midfield. meh, it would be the same problem as ramsey and xhaka in midfield. not so much as balance but which of those two is going to lead the team to victory in tough games? the value of senior leadership can’t be overstated. it’s why ramsey has only looked good alongside arteta, a senior guy. it’s also why veratti has looked strong with motta but poor when partnered with rabiot. despite their obvious talent, neither xhaka nor veratti is ready to lead at an elite championship level.

    1. I agree with the conclusion that Xhaka/Veratti would not be ideal, less with the idea that it’s this magical quality of leadership that would be missing. The problem is that neither would give us the defensive cover we need in big games (in smaller games, it would work, but then so do any number of combinations we already have). Xhaka is a bigger/stronger Xabi Alonso, and that’s a HUGE compliment, but he’s SLOW. We’ve all seen enough of him now that there’s no sense failing to acknowledge this fact. It doesn’t mean he won’t be a brilliant footballer for us. But it’s why Coquelin is still getting in this team: playing Xhaka alongside another midfielder who doesn’t offer at least a decent amount of running around and making tackles means we’re likely to get exposed on the counter. Veratti is obviously not incapable of tackling, but he’s not primarily in the team for that.

  17. I have a question for the field but would like to preface it with I’m a big fan of Olivier Giroud. That said, would he be surplus at forward if we have Alexis, Welbeck or Lucas at that position? I ask, because I’m not sure he gives us enough physical difference if Danny is healthy. Would your opinion change if Draxler did end up at the Emirates and made his claim on the left? Thanks for your thoughts.

  18. I wouldn’t be too quick to get rid of him unless he asked for a move. He’s been one of our most consistent players since he arrived and he’s a good option coming off the bench. Also I’d be wary of banking too much on Danny’s fitness in the near future after being out for so long.

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