Crystal Palace v. Arsenal: Oliver Twist

First, let me say congratulations to Tony Adams who was appointed manager of Granada this morning. And best of luck to Big Tone, he’s going to need it, Granada are 7 points below the drop line with just 7 matches left to play. His task is going to be to drag Granada out of relegation. Something I suspect is impossible given the time left in the season.

Granada is owned by Jiang Lizhang, the Chinese billionaire who also owns or co-owns several sports teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. Adams was working with Lizhang on heading up player recruitment at Granada when they announced the shock move.

Meanwhile back in England, Arsenal face Crystal Palace today in a match that is almost certainly going to be a test of Arsenal’s supposed new-found mental strenf.

Unlike West Ham last week, Arsenal face a Crystal Palace side who are in good form. Palace had won four in a row, including a big 2-1 win over Chelsea, before dropping points to Southampton on Wednesday. Also unlike West Ham, Palace are only three points off the drop and their manager Sam Allardyce will be keen to get any points they can.

Allardyce is a bit of a unique manager in that he’s not exactly a good manager but he does have one special talent, which is killing off football matches. He’s never going to teach players how to pass and move. His teams have never shown a “plan b” which is something the Brits love to ask their managers to have. And his brand of football is never a surprise, it’s always been and always will be long-ball, route-one, wide forwards crossing the ball in, trying to win the game on corners and free kicks, solid defense in the low block, and killing off the clock and breaking up play through rotational fouling and getting the ball out of play.

One other thing to look for is that Allardyce will look for mismatches in aerial duels: his teams love to play long diagonals in to big men like Benteke who will be positioned wide enough to force Bellerin or Monreal to cover him. In these situations, Benteke’s job is to win the header for a teammate who should be running full speed through the midfield.

In a funny way, Wenger and Allardyce are similar; both play a predictable brand of football. Wenger today is going to have his players playing vertically with his center backs encouraged to play long balls on the ground, his wing players coming inside, his defensive line will be high (with little pressure when they turn the ball over), his team will play zonal marking on corners, his forwards will have the freedom to roam, his defenders will be weak in the air, and his midfielders will switch off defensively on counter attacks.

Wenger will rely to a large extent on the superior talent of his players to see them through this match – you will even hear people rationalize “Arsenal are the better team, they should win this match”.

Wenger will probably continue with the Elneny-Xhaka partnership in midfield. Passing numbers will be high, perhaps even a season high. Defensive awareness from these two has to be perfect on the day or Arsenal will be punished.

Michael Oliver is the referee and Arsenal have an awful record under Oliver, the worst of any Premier League referee. Arsenal have only won three Premier League matches with Oliver as referee: West Brom (2011), Spurs (2013), and Chelsea (2016), all home matches. Arsenal have also never won a match with Michael Oliver as referee in a match that took place after matchday 14. The record there is 5 draws and 3 losses. Oliver has also awarded Arsenal just two penalties, both against Liverpool and both in losses (5-1 and 3-4), while awarding the opposition 4 penalties. Arsenal have never won an away match in Premier League play while Michael Oliver is referee with 4 draws and 3 losses.

One other thing to look for is that a lot of these teams like Crystal Palace, West Brom, and Stoke like to fall over whenever they feel any contact outside the box. This is the diving that no one ever complains about yet happens in every match. It’s especially prevalent among teams who like to complain about diving and who promote themselves as “tough, English teams”. Between the half-way line and the 18 yard box, on the flanks, there is a special little zone that teams like Palace like to dive in. Referees love to award these teams these fouls which sometimes leads to a set-piece shot.

Against Arsenal Palace will look to dive in these zones, get a set play, then exploit the big -to-little advantage with Benteke playing wide against Bellerin, nodding down balls, and causing havoc in Arsenal’s defensive lines.

I’m predicting a home win for Palace: 2-1.



  1. In stark contrast to Tim’s buildup, have reminded us that Arsenal hasn’t lost away at Palace since 1979 and Arsene is yet to be defeated by Palace in the PL era with a record of 8 wins and 3 draws. I enjoyed Tim’s compare/contrast of Sam and Arsene, who, despite being on opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum, both come from the same generation of managers.

    It looks like we are unchanged from the West Ham game. The palace XI has a speed on the flanks with Puncheon, Townsend and Zaha but those three don’t scare me much. I’ll be impressed if Sam has been able to convince either Andros or Wilf to track our fullbacks consistently, while I think Monreal/Bellerin should get the better of it against that bunch. I’m more worried about Cabaye’s passing and running from deep as well as Sakho springing a pass from deep. Schlupp and Ward are competent in attack and will probably be their best outlet to get crosses to Benteke. Luka Milivojevic is a total unknown to me and the wildcard here; the rest of Sam’s midfield are not known for being defensively aware or strong, so I expect he is selected for his ability to tackle and win duels.

    This match is all about wide areas and fullback play i both phases. I think we have a big advantage out there in terms of quality and therefore I expect us to win; however I don’t expect a large margin of victory and I wouldn’t be surprised by any outcome.

  2. I can’t believe it’s 2017 and I’m watching an Arsenal team containing Emiliano Martinez, Elneny and Gabriel. This team has the brand image of an Liverpool team from a couple of seasons ago and probably that is why they’ll end up where Liverpool used to end up.

  3. Well that has certainly put a dampener on waiting for the opportune time to announce that Arsene has extended.

  4. Well that was embarrassing! Time for serious change. Arsene needs to go as does Kroenke. Never has watching Arsenal been physically exhausting but I need a lie down.

  5. Yeah that Ozil resurrection after dominating…an abject West Ham…sure was great wasn’t it?

    1. …along with that dominant partnership of elneny and xhaka. fake!
      no way should elneney have started ahead of chamberlain. oh, and ramsey wearing the armband. double-fake!

      damn shame, arsenal have me using trumpisms.

      1. Elneny wasn’t the problem per se. The problem was starting him in a two in midfield with Xhaka. Just not physically robust enough. I agree the Ox should have started, but honestly, this level of abject performance, week in, week out, shows that our problems are much deeper than a few lineup decisions.
        The problem is our defense is an utter shambles, and Wenger seems now to have forgotten how to coach attacking, passing football, which was once his forte.

        1. it was never his forte. it was bergkamp and vieira who championed that style while wenger was given credit for it. as soon as those two left, it went downhill. it just happens that a bunch of young bucks were grandfathered into that style and kept it going for a while. now, they’re all gone and we see what’s real.

          when van persie first got to arsenal, ljunberg held the ball too long during training. van persie says vieira got in freddie’s face about holding the ball too long. apparently, freddie tried to laugh it off but rvp says he thought patrick was going to kick his tail right there on the training pitch and was scared for ljunberg. yeah, that quick slick passing was enforced by the captain and some senior players. arsenal don’t have a captain anymore. i don’t believe it was ever wenger and i’ve said that for years. the only thing i believe wenger has ever given players is the freedom to express themselves.

          1. You’re entitled to your opinion, and I know we’re all seriously annoyed by how this season is going, but that has to be one of the most absurdly uncharitable interpretations of events I have ever encountered. Not just in football; in life.

            You’re basically saying Arsene Wenger has been a massive fraud for 20 years, that the only thing he was ever “good” at is telling the players “go out there and do what you want on the pitch.” (Btw, Vieira and Bergkamp have been gone for over a decade, in which time we’ve qualified for the CL every year.)

            Imagine you had been at your job for over 20 years, and in that time had achieved whatever success is equivalent in your profession to 3 PL titles, 6 FA Cups, a season unbeaten, and 20 straight years in the CL (I’m willing to bet a lot of money that no one on this blog has achieved equivalent success in their chosen profession). Now imagine some stranger walking up to you and telling you that all of that success had nothing to do with you but was entirely down to the employees who worked under you. Sure, you were their manager, and it was your direct responsibility to achieve those goals by overseeing and organizing the workers, but you didn’t contribute anything to the team except not mucking up all their good work. I’m guessing you’d want to tell him to p*ss off, or worse, and you’d have every right to.

            We’re all sick of this season, we all think Wenger must take responsibility for this shambles of a team, but a little basic respect, please.

          2. Your point is harsh (in my opinion) but I think you’ve very ably illustrated the problem Arsene Wenger is going to have with his legacy; the longer he hangs on the more reason he is giving us to question whether it was actually the manager or the players who brought the club those wonderful golden first 10 years. He is ruining his own legacy by hanging around past his best before date.

  6. in an arsene wenger side, you can’t win tough games without leadership. wenger won’t provide the direction. he’s never had to. he’s taken senior leadership in the locker room for granted by declaring that he has eleven captains. all of that talent and no direction; what a shame.

  7. 1. Burn it all down.
    2. How bad was Bellerin? How bad has he been, more or less consistently, since he came back from injury? How bad is that haircut? Where’d his blistering pace go? He was always better going forward than defending (as many modern fullbacks are), but now it looks like he just doesn’t know how to defend at all. Does Wenger know he’s playing with two right wingers (often getting in each others’ way) and no right back, because that’s sure what it looks like.
    3. That’s why Elneny and Xhaka won’t work as a midfield two: not strong enough winning the ball back in our third of the pitch.
    4. What is the point of Aaron Ramsey?
    5. What is the point of following this team any more?
    6. Shouldn’t there be a rule against purposely letting the pitch be that bad, so as to prevent teams from passing the ball? This is 2017, not 1987. Time to demand more from PL pitches.
    7. Blatant dive and non-pen?
    8. Was Martinez’s rash challenge due to the fact he had zero confidence in Bellerin’s ability to contain Andros Bloody Townsend? (Rhetorical question.)
    9. Why didn’t we bring on Giroud at half time, when it was obvious we needed him? (Says the guy who is no fan of Giroud.)
    10. Why do we keep encouraging Mustafi to pass the ball out of the back, when it’s like a 90% chance that we will thereby cough the ball up?
    11. Do Arsenal practice tracking runners in training? Sure doesn’t look that way.
    12. So: we’re not going to make the top four. How bad will the damage be to our squad for next season and the seasons to come (with or without AW)? Discuss.

    1. i’ve declared for weeks that bellerin is not a good defender; that haircut is ridiculous.
      elneny-xhaka, i said the other day that wasn’t real.
      same with mustafi’s passing.
      same with aaron ramsey but for years.
      while giroud is not the greatest, i appreciate his skill set. he just doesn’t go with ozil because ozil likes to drift too much; giroud needs a #10 that stays close to him.


    2. 13. That Theo Walcott is our captain says all you need to know about how this club has stagnated. This guy is the Platonic form of the one trick pony. Yet he gets into our team every week, gets offered bigger and bigger contracts every few years, and now he’s got the armband. Nice guy, but he wasn’t Arsenal class at 16, and he’s only Arsenal class at 27 because the rest of the team have sunk to his level.

      1. 14. I didn’t think we could get worse under Wenger than Winter-Spring 2016 Arsenal. I was wrong.

        1. yeah, I never read much into the captain thing, but something about Theo having it just drives me crazy. It just seems to me that this is a guy–yes, he seems nice, yes he’s fast, yes he’s decent at scoring goals–whose shortcomings on a football pitch are so bleedingly obvious, and have been for so long, it’s crazy to me that anyone would ever have thought he was good enough for Arsenal FC. And now he’s one of the most senior players. Just symbolic, to me, of a culture of indulgence at the club.

    1. Because his change in hairstyle has coincided with his dip in form. Coincidence?

      He’s obviously got some kind of Samson’s Curse where his footballing ability is directly linked to his choice of hairstyle.

      When he starts sporting a ponytail we might as well sell him to Barca because at that point he’s going to basically be Eddie McGoldrick. 🙁

    2. Any haircut that requires adjusting it even once or twice during the game , regardless how beautiful or ridiculous it looks, is a distraction from what you have to achieve on the pitch especially when you are a 21 year old player who’s just learning his trade.

      1. Hair is a distraction. Burn it down.

        I consider this to be a fantastic place to come and share ideas but last week we had a serious discussion about selling Alexis Sanchez to Chelsea and this week Bellerin’s haircut is held up as some sort of example for misbehavior. My faith in you all is being shaken.

        1. “Misbehavior”? Who’s saying that?
          When after you head the ball, you have to readjust your ponytail rubber band , or whatever you call that particular hairstyle , that takes away from your ability to concentrate fully on your assignments. Simple logic dictates this and not some anty-Bellerin or ant-Arsenal bias.

  8. Ugly result.

    Out of the top 18 passing combinations in that game, Crystal Palace had only one: Hennessy to Benteke, 14 times! How absurd is that? They completed a total of 147 passes compared to Arsenal’s 523, yet they had 17 shots compared to our 11. So, obviously it was a ton of sterile possession that didn’t go anywhere, exactly what Sam would’ve wanted. Welbeck was completely ineffective and Ozil didn’t create a single chance despite making 50000 passes. Xhaka was the only one who shone based on his chalkboard: 4 chances created, very good passing and lots of duels won.

    Also, apparently Wilf is a different beast these days than the one I remember:

    1. On the other hand all three of their goals were kind of flukey. For the first, Zaha falls over when he crosses, I haven’t seen the super slo-mo but it’s hard to believe he knows where Townsend is when he plays that. For the second, Cabaye is falling down as he hits it and it loops perfectly into the top corner on a first time strike from the corner of the D. It’s either great luck or a great hit, more likely the former. The third is a penalty; it’s another one where the player is clearly playing for it despite there being some contact on him. So we were bad AND we were unlucky. We’ve been bad away from home since the New Year and the 39 goals we’ve already given up is the worst for an Arsenal team in several years with 8 games to go. It’s getting harder and harder to believe the players are playing their best for their manager.

      1. Do you think Arsenal goals against WHam didn’t have an element of luck in them.
        The first two for sure. Ozil is not trying to score but rather looking for a runner in the box( Alexis),
        and Walcott isn’t trying to nutmeg Collins at the near post when the far post is gaping.

        Only Giroud’s goal was meant to happen in the exact way he executed it.
        Unlike Ozil, he never looked at the goal or for runners and simply struck the ball into the far corner.

        I’m not saying Arsenal were lucky to beat WHam U of course( Arsenal should’ve had at least two penalties to run up the score), who were pathetic, but so were Arsenal today and looking for any silver linings but trying to deny CP their dues is a mistake.

        1. You’re right, Crystal Palace were so freaking great, I still can’t get over how freaking great they were but they were only great because we were sh**t sh***T SH******T and WENGER OUT.

          Is that better?

  9. 7th or 8th is good. We don’t have to play Europa League next season. Let Everton enjoy that.
    How can this team beat Man City in the FA Cup semi-final?

  10. I know you love Trump analogies…

    The nihilism amongst Arsenal fans (at least online) is turning into a tsunami. Burn it all down. Sell the “British Core”. F*ck Sanchez and Ozil, those f*cking greedy mercenaries. Giroud sucks. Bellerin can f*ck off to Barcelona. Wenger needs to commit hari-kari in front of a cheering crowd outside the Emirates. Gazidis and Kroenke are representative of corporate rot writ large.

    This is how Trump got elected; people were sick and tired of coastal elites, Hollywood pukes and politicians who all somehow manage to retire millionaires and just wanted to see it all burn down. Don’t think too much about what’s going to take it’s place, just burn it down.

  11. The saddest thing for me is that at the start of the season, I looked at this squad and thought that this was the best AFC team for a long while. No glaring gaps any more. I still think that on paper, this is a very good team. So only one person to blame.

    1. But bro Tim
      How come this write up is a complete replica of what happened yester night? And you are not a technical adviser
      My point is if arsene has this kinda info and it happened as it was voluntarily resignation is all he needs
      72%bp zero goal
      Tell me who were outstanding yester night except xhaka Alexis and may be monreal

  12. As of now, Ozil is absolutely unable to create from the centre. All his assists now come from the wide areas. Why should he still be at #10 where his handicap at defending is most pronounced?

    Sanchez on the other hand is a chaos provider, who loves the final risky potentially goal rewarding pass. He is prolific goal scorer himself though lacking the psychological make up of a striker. One would have thought that he should be the #10/support striker where the actions suit his skill sets to a tee. His performance from the sparsely populated wide areas has become predictable and sterile.

    Ozil needs space, Sanchez thrieves in choked environments.

    I fear Wenger has lost his creativity. His strategy seems based on hopefulness derived from past pleasing incidences like Ozil’s history of assists galore, Walcott’s every now and then super goals and Ramsey’s 2013/14 form. That is living on past glories and not anymore in contact with NOW, He is gone too conservative.

    1. i’ve argued that alexis should be allowed a chance to play in the 10 spot. he’d still be in the central areas near the goal where he’s prolific, the center of the park would be better defensively than with ozil there, and giroud would greatly benefit from having a player close by to link play with, not drifting so much like ozil does.

      however, wenger has this vision in his head that won’t be moved. ozil is his baby, sort of like cesc when he was at arsenal. wenger is determined to see this team succeed only with ozil there and is willing to throw season after season to try and prove himself right. the one time arsenal nearly won the league with fabregas at arsenal was the only season cesc didn’t play as a #10. imagine that. also, one must appreciate that the decision to play cesc deeper and hleb higher was not an idea from wenger but a decision implemented by the players themselves. it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the decision for cazorla to play deeper than coquelin was done by the players as well.

      wenger doesn’t seem to really excel at that tactical and strategic stuff. he facilitates the players preparation, nutrition, rest, fitness, technical skill, etc. however, when it comes to tactical and strategic stuff, does he have any influence or control? you can tell by watching his demeanor on the touch line during games. he does not look like a manager in control of a situation. he looks like he’s hanging along for the ride and hoping the plane doesn’t crash; a passenger with no input to what the pilots (players) are doing. when he doesn’t have a senior guy on the field to lead the team, this team is rudderless and easy to defeat.

  13. relax, pfo. i didn’t say wenger had no role in the success that arsenal has had. my point is the so-called “wengerball”is a misnomer. it should have been called “dennis-and-vieira-ball”.

    here’s a question, could wenger have replicated that style of football the invincibles played at a different club? i think the answer is no and i’ve said that since the unbeaten season. hell, he can’t even replicate it at arsenal where he has total control. there is no continuity between the way that team played and the way the team plays now; there’s nothing that says “wenger influence”.

    i really don’t think it was an expression of him but the personality of the players in that team; their desire to play a certain way coupled with their will to win. did wenger facilitate a lot? absolutely! the diet, training regimen, updated training facilities, new stadium, etc. that was all wenger. likewise, was the freedom of players to “express themselves”. however, this team has no leaders on the pitch and there seems to be no direction or style of play. when that happens, the manager has to intervene. the problem is wenger’s never had to intervene before and you know what they say about old dog-new trick. he probably doesn’t even recognize what’s going on. if he did, he would likely had done something about it. we’ll see what happens.

    1. Hard to argue against this when we can’t even play basic football let along Wenger ball.

    2. Obviously, it’s not black and white and there’s a lot of gray areas but broadly speaking, there are coaches who believe in a system of play and teach players that system and there are coaches who adapt their system of play to the players they have at hand. Wenger is a “players” coach who views his players as puzzle pieces that he needs to fit together into a coherent whole. It’s why he can usually come up with a very strong starting eleven but as soon as you take even a single player out, the system quickly starts to break down because the system is built on each players unique strengths and weaknesses and not on execution of certain methods of play. The Invincibles thrived because Wenger brought excellent players together who thrived not on the freedom he gave them but the responsibility thrust upon them. Wenger gave them the platform and they took it from there.

      1. players taking responsibility is a very key point. however, when no one is doing it in the current side, the manager has to intervene.

        1. I don’t disagree that he gives he players lots of responsibility, blah blah blah. And of course he had extraordinary players in that era (most of whom he brought to the club). But anyone who remembers the Arsenal from the end of the Graham era and the Rioch season, and then remembers the first few seasons of Wenger’s Arsenal, must know it’s crazy to think it was largely about the players and not how he set them up to play. The transformation was too total. Bergkamp was a flop at Inter and arguably underperformed in his first year at Arsenal. Vieira was, what, 20(?) when Arsene bought him. No way those two players suddenly sorted everything out and made us look amazing.

          But I’m not going to waste my breath arguing about it any more here. As Jack said above, the saddest thing about all of this is that the current team is causing otherwise sane people to doubt that Wenger even deserves credit for his great teams of the past. I think life is more complicated than that. It can both be the case that he deserves the lion’s share of the credit for those early teams, and the case that he deserves the lion’s share of the blame for the current disaster. Football, especially in England, has moved on. Wenger hasn’t kept up, AND a number of Arsene’s idiosyncrasies and weaknesses, which were always there but were balanced out by his strengths (and maybe by good luck), are now, for a number of complicated reasons, starting to really bite him and this team.

          But I’m not going to give into the temptation to apply a simplistic post hoc narrative onto his 20 year reign in order to have an easy scapegoat or to make what’s currently happening more understandable.

          1. bergkamp wasn’t a flop just because inter didn’t know how to use him. he’s a cruyff prodigy! inter were stupid!

            likewise, vieira came to arsenal after being mentored for a year by some of the best players ever to play the game in the best team of the 1990s; a team that included a few more cruyff prodigies. let’s not forget, vieira was captain of a ligue 1 team at 19. also, let’s not forget that he’s a 20 year old who walked into the arsenal team and moved everybody to the bench. everybody!

            i’m not saying wenger didn’t play a significant role in the way the team played. what i give him huge credit for was encouraging bergkamp and vieira (and others) to do what they knew was good football, believing that their talents and mettle could make arsenal a champion. despite their similarities, ozil is not bergkamp and ramsey is not vieira. not all arsenal players have the same responsibility to put the team first the way bergkamp and vieira did. that was my point when i mentioned the vieira confrontation with ljunberg. freddie was playing for freddie and it was unacceptable even in training. now, ramsey plays for ramsey in the game and it’s alright.

            this isn’t just a convenient argument to try and justify the current predicament at arsenal. tim, among others here, have heard me make this same argument since 2004 going back to the arsenal america site. the invincibles played a very cruyff-style of football. the current team play the way ozil and ramsey play. is there a true wenger common denominator that exists between those two styles of play? i can’t see it.

  14. I missed the game yesterday due to work and didn’t bother watching it on my dvr after I came home. Generally speaking, I don’t think our players are that bad. If they get some basic organization and structure, we would instantly look like much better team. This “freedom of expression” thing is a bunch of nonsense. Yes it worked when you had players like Vieira, Bergkamp & Henry but I really doubt that even with those players that philosophy would work in this day and age. The game has evolved so much in the last decade or so. It’s completely left Wenger behind and in the process, us.

    What’s demoralizing for me right now is the deafening silence from the club. It would at least give the fans some hope for the future if they knew that the club had some plans to change things around. If Wenger has already signed a two year deal, they should just come out and say it instead of waiting for the right moment because there isn’t going to be one. Even if they simply say – we want to give Wenger two more seasons to turn the ship around because as our most successful manager in history he has earned our patience – fans wouldn’t be happy but at least there would be an end game in sight. That’s better than this toxicity that spreading through the fan base like a virus at the moment.

  15. ” Generally speaking, I don’t think our players are that bad. If they get some basic organization and structure, we would instantly look like much better team”

    All you have to do is to look at the two goals conceded from open play to realize Arsenal players were in good defensive positions to deal with the CP attackers and the numbers were in Arsenal favor as well.
    So what went wrong then?
    Well, Arsenal players resemble a bunch of kittens chasing after a laser light more than a well drilled proffesionals who know who’s around them ready to receive the ball.

    Not a single Arsenal defender turned his head to look what was happening around them in the build up to both CP goals. They were either chasing after the player with the ball ar ball watching.

    Put them in a room and show them clips of Chelsea players dealing with this sort of situation for contrast and then spend time practicing it.

      1. The Chelsea bit was obviously tongue in cheek but I ve noticed you didn’t really question the crux of my comment regarding our defending and marking the runners.
        Doesn’t it make you wonder why Arsenal players don’t picke them up though?

  16. the way forward: sign ronald koeman. bring lukaku and schneiderlin with him. ozil will leave because koeman won’t tolerate his crap. tell alexis he’s not going anywhere. replace xhaka with schneiderlin and partner him in center mid with ox and alexis. let sczcesny battle it out with cech and ospina; may the best keeper win and the second best sits (sell the third, no more loans). bring someone in to compete with hector. kick mustafi into shape or sell. drop ramsey until he cries to leave, accepting a pay cut. let campbell, iwobi, walcott, and welbeck battle it out for the wide areas. done. no overhaul necessary, just tweaks.

      1. Apologies for my unnecessarily rude comment. I just disagree with a lot of that, and with the tone of “hey, it’d be obvious and easy.”

        1. no offense. i’m a grown man.

          not saying it would be easy but more of a way forward. like you, i fancy xhaka but he lacks the maturity, guile, and experience to control the tempo of a bpl game the way that cazorla, arteta or schneiderlin can. his time is coming but it’s not right now. acquiring schniederlin would stop the rot while giving xhaka a bit more time to develop.

          how tough it would be would depend on koeman. he’s another cruyff prodigy and has had profound success in his managerial career, especially at southampton and everton. he knows how to maximize the talents of the players at his disposal. arsenal have plenty of talent. he would, certainly, organize the team. how tough the job would be would depend on him.

    1. I have never been completely convinced by Schneiderlin. I know Tim was a big fan back when he was still with Southampton. I remember Wenger mentioning a few seasons ago that he doesn’t think we need a defensive mid anymore – rather he sees the defensive duties split among two center mids. I’m not sure if most managers would agree. To me it feels like the defensive mid is becoming more prominent as more managers utilize their full backs to provide width in attack, allowing the defensive mid to act almost like a third center back. Schneiderlin worked great with Wanyama, who is an all-action, tough-tackling defensive mid. Can he work up a good partnership with Ox? More importantly perhaps, are we actually sold on Ox as one of our future center mid just because he has looked relatively better there than our endless crop of slightly-above-average midfielders? I know I am not.

      That said, he would be an improvement over Elneny and Ramsey – and I would take him based on that value alone, but I think we should aim for better.

  17. Serious question: if we offered Chelsea 80+ million for Kante this summer, any chance of them even considering it? What about 100m?

    I’m not just jumping on the Kante-is-the-greatest-footballer-who-ever-lived bandwagon, it’s more that I can’t think of a single other player (besides the obvious, Messi, Ronaldo, etc etc) who could so totally transform the play of our team as Kante could. It should be obvious by now that our problems run deep and aren’t about a single player or area of the pitch, but the biggest issue, the one that so many of the problems seem to stem, is our inability to find a workable midfield. Xhaka has lots of potential, and has looked increasingly good recently, but he needs a partner, and I can’t think of another player on planet earth who would be more suited to partnering him than Kante. It’s a match made in heaven. They’d not just be a functioning midfield, but a potential title-winning one.

    So, obviously Chelsea would be crazy to sell, but then, no one ever offers silly money like that for a largely defensive/destructive midfielder. And we have that kind of money, we’d just be too scared to spend it all in one place. But the other changes to the squad (e.g. backup/competition at both fullback positions) could be funded by player sales. What’s the harm in trying?

    PS I know this is pie in the sky fantasy.

    1. PPS We’d still probably fall short of actually being in a title race. But we might get back to the Arsenal of a few years ago, who were good to watch, looked like one of the most cohesive teams going forward in the league, and were at least consistently (and largely deservedly) making the top four.

      1. Chelsea would never agree and even if by some miracle they did, Wenger would try to turn him into a box to box midfielder like he tried to with Coquelin instead of playing to his strengths.

        1. Haha, yes. Also, Kante wouldn’t join us – he’s already turned us down, apparently. Smart lad.

  18. Oliver is one of the best refs in the Premier League with Clattenburg. I wouldn’t blame him for the defeat. He did a decent job last night and he’s much more competent than Dean or Atkinson.

  19. So, the bottom line after today’s defeat:

    1) Bellerin needs to cut his disrespectful mop. This is the most easily corrected item on the agenda.
    2) Let’s hire Ronald Koeman, because, well, he’s not Wenger.
    3) Let’s make the players watch videos of Chelsea players doing things better than they’re doing them. This is always a successful strategy.
    4) Let’s spend even more time talking about Bergkamp and Vieira than is absolutely necessary because nostalgia feels great. All this talk of football having moved on and yet we are as stuck in the past as we accuse Wenger of being.
    5) Everyone’s little pet theories are all 100% correct.
    6) I apologize to everyone I’ve just offended.

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