Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola: A Cold Night in Stoke

The Last Judgement is clearly one of the most beautiful paintings ever but could Michelangelo do it in watercolors on the ceiling of Stoke Minster? I think not. And until he does, there will always be questions over his talent.” – Football fan at the Sistine Chapel, 1541.

On Wednesday, football fans witnessed a magnificent 2-1 win by Manchester City over Manchester United but before the milk had even dried on Jose Mourinho’s jacket, the complaints started rolling in: “sure”, they went, “Pep Guardiola has Man City playing beautiful football but he’s a checkbook manager, there will always be doubts about his managerial skills until he proves he can do it with a smaller club. Could he do it with Stoke?”

Somewhere along the line “Stoke” has become shorthand for some kind of Midlands Socialist Brutalism. Like the Narkomfin Building in Moscow, Stoke City are the football equivalent of a long, squat building with rows of apartments. Not real pretty to look at, not really a place you’d like to visit, and you don’t want to live there, but if the point is to just have a building, then job well done.

Whenever Lionel Messi has a brilliant evening in Spain the calls come out “yeah, but could he do it on a cold night in Stoke?” Meaning, sure, he’s the world’s most talented footballer who just put on a dazzling display of football but there’s no way he could perform at his very best in the Bet365Gamble24/7 Stadium while arctic winds blew in strands of Carl Orff’s O Fortuna and Ryan Shawcross lumbered around like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV muttering “I must break you.”

And so now, of course after Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City put on a masterclass of attacking football at Old Trafford we hear that there’s no way Pep could do it at Stoke. Just like Lewis Hamilton couldn’t do it in an old Soviet Lada.

But we shouldn’t underestimate the magnitude of Pep’s achievement. Guardiola’s win over Mourinho marks just the 2nd time Jose has lost a Premier League match at Old Trafford (both times to Pep). It is also Mourinho’s 7th overall loss at home when we count all of his matches as a Premier League manager. That’s 7 losses at home in 133 matches, two of them at the hands of Pep Guardiola.

Ironically, while Stoke is the symbol of English Football’s Brutalist movement, it’s Jose Mourinho and his fear of losing which has shaped his multi-million-Pound United side into a Stoke-style team. Despite having spent nearly the same on transfers as Man City and having the highest wage bill in England, against any team with attacking talent, Mourinho plays “pragmatic” football. This is just a nice way of saying that he plays with two banks of four in defense, eschewing possession and instead looking to stifle space and wait for an opportunity for one of his extremely expensive forwards to get out on a break and nick a goal. Mourinho’s football is a 20 story council estate, just lavishly appointed.  

But what of the fan complaint? Could Pep Guardiola “do it” (win the Premier League) with Stoke? I turn that question around, could any manager win the League with Stoke? I doubt it. 

Stoke have spent £60m over the last three seasons on player acquisition (Transfermarkt), which would have been a decent amount 10 years ago but this is the era when Mourinho paid £45m for Matic and Guardiola paid £50m for Kyle Walker. Both Manchester teams spent over £130m on transfers (so far) this season, which is more than Stoke has spent in its entire history. So, transfer activity would be severely curtailed and any manager would have to search wide and far in Europe for bargains if they wanted to be successful.

Both managers would also be hamstrung by Stoke’s wage bill which is already maxed out at around £80m (Guardian) and ranked 12th best in the Premier League. According to the same source (which are two year old figures) Man Utd have the highest wage bill in the League at £232m and Man City were 4th at a paltry £198m. Both teams have probably exceeded those amounts this season but at the very least we are talking about a Stoke team that can afford about 40% of the wages that the big teams can. Again, this places a huge burden on recruitment and retention of top players. That means that whatever human manages Stoke City they would be under huge financial constraints and highly unlikely to win the Premier League.

Money buys the Premier League title, it always has. Michael Caley did an analysis of the Premier League from 2000-2014 and found that 80% of the top four finishes went to teams whose wages were also top four. Only one team outside of the top four wage spend challenged for the title during that time, that was Liverpool, who were 5th highest and spent £144m on wages. Stoke City’s entire turnover was £104m for 2015.

In 25 years of Premier League football there was just one team who broke this mold and that was Leicester City. Their wages were the same as Stoke, £80m, and they “only” spent £100m in transfers during their rise from the League Championship to the Premier League. Leicester City worked hard, they were smart about player fitness, and they managed to find some amazing bargains in the transfer market. But there was also a ton of luck in their rise.

Leicester won the League during a season when the previous year’s winners (and 2nd in wage bill) Chelsea imploded under the crazed management of none other than Jose Mourinho. Chelsea sacked Mourinho in December but it wasn’t enough to get them back into the top four and they finished 10th. Liverpool, the team with the third highest wage bill, also sacked their manager and brought in Jurgen Klopp who, despite his rather bubbly television personality, only raised them two places and they finished 8th. Top wage spenders Manchester United bumbled along under Louis van Gaal, who tried his best to earn a draw in every match by having his players pass the ball back and forth between defenders, they finished 5th.  Arsenal (5th highest wage bill) finished 2nd, Tottenham (6th highest wage bill) finished 3rd, and Man City (4th highest wage bill) finished 4th.  

But could Pep Guardiola improve results at Stoke? Almost certainly. Stoke are managed by Mark Hughes and are in 15th place, 4 points above the bottom of the table. Any manager would improve Stoke. Replacing Hughes with an old tube television that pays a VCR tape titled “how to play football” would probably improve Stoke.  

More than just a checkbook manager, Guardiola is a teacher who prides himself on getting the best out of his players. Leroy Sane said “[Pep] helped me so much. I can say he changed my game completely, I improved so much with so many issues, and he still tries to be perfect and to give me pressure.” And former Arsenal fullback Bacary Sagna was more specific, “It’s little things, the way I position my body and how I anticipate things and communicate with players. I love it. I came to City to improve my game and keep working really hard. I needed a change and to challenge myself again and that’s what I’m doing here.”

The Guardiola effect shows in other players as well. Fabian Delph has revived his career under Pep, John Stones went from defensive liability to one of the best center backs in the world, and Raheem Sterling has been a revelation in the Guardiola system. 

Could Guardiola “do it” on a cold night in Stoke? The odds would be against him but he would certainly have Stoke playing some great football.  And what about Jose Mourinho? Could Jose win the League with Stoke? Despite spending the same money on his team as Guardiola, Jose’s team already plays like Stoke. And given his managerial career to date, there’s no doubt that Mourinho would be looking more likely to get the sack with Stoke than to win the League. 



  1. Nope, could not do it. He is not raising the game of midpack fodder. He would also never rise to the challenge of not having everything as his disposal. $h*tTy are one De Bruyne injury of falling back to the pack.

    1. Bold assertion. I’d go so far as to say that if De Bruyne picked up a season-ending injury tomorrow, City would still win the league by a margin of ~15 points.

      Also , it’s clear that you haven’t read the article.

      1. I can’t say if he’s read the article or not, but I second the assertion that if KDB we’re out for the rest of the season, they’d still win the league at a canter. Now, if he’d been out all season, that might be a different question, but I’d bet they still would’ve won the league, albeit by a smaller margin.

        And Messi would destroy Stoke (or is the thought experiment that he’s playing *for* Stoke? I never know).

  2. Sorry mate, read the article, this topic has been beaten to death. And I will add to it by saying have him go to Swansea or a Championship side- that’s right, not going to happen. pup only follows the biggest budget to the path of least resistance.
    All the players on $h*tTy cost big bucks, probably the most expensive team in the EPL. Definitely not Stoke budget.
    But, it it well written, thought through, and insightful.
    Stoke playing wide open futbol, without the players to do it, would mean certain relegation.
    You go back and read the article.

  3. Meh who cares about Stoke. The bigger question for me is can Pep win the league with Arsenal? Our revenue, though sizable, is not enough to see off challenges in the transfer market from City, United or Chelsea. He would have to work with more limitations. I think the answer though, is he can. He would immediately improve Xhaka and Ramsey in midfield and within one or two transfer windows he would also buy smartly enough to be able to build a squad that is capable of challenging on all fronts. I think players want to work with him – especially South American and Spanish players which is a huge plus. I believe he would still be able to get someone like Gabriel Jesus to join us though he probably wouldn’t be able to splash 50 mil on Kyle Walker. The follow up question then becomes if Pep can do it, who else can? Finding a replacement for Wenger is just about the only Arsenal topic that interests me these days.

    1. I originally wanted to make this a piece about what Pep would do with arsenal.

      1. He would have a Cazorla in this team immediately. His first priority.
      2. He would address the lack of balance up front where three or four players are allowed a free role with no defensive duties.
      3. He would install a pressing and passing system which would address the problems Arsenal have on counters.
      4. He would demand that the board buy players so that he has sufficient cover across the XI (which we do not now).
      5. He would sell off players who don’t fit his system.
      6. He would sell Cech immediately.
      7. He would instruct players on tactics and passing, and would set up the team so that they would be more fluid in passing, making ordinary players like Ramsey better.
      8. He would unearth a star player from some of the guys we have now

      1. And while my other comment is in moderation I would just add one more to your list.
        He would react quickly to any sign of Arsenal needing a change of personnel on the pitch if conditions required it, no matter the time. Like pulling Aguero in the beginning of the second half against the Spurs, when Tottenham started to gain the upper hand in the proceedings.
        Aguero was pissed but Pep didn’t care a bit.
        He needed him to put more pressure on Tottenham defenders, he felt Kun wasn’t doing it so he brought on Jesus.

      2. NYC and Tim,
        Congrats, you’ve gotten to the heart of what interests me on this issue, i.e. what would Pep do with a “big club” that doesn’t have unlimited funds and/or doesn’t have easily the biggest budget/draw in their domestic league? And I think Tim has made a decent stab at all the things he would almost immediately improve with us.

        For me, it’s a shame that Pep hasn’t gone for an “Arsenal level” job yet (and not just because I’m a gooner!), because it would genuinely be fascinating to see what he’d do and how he’d fare, which is NOT the same thing as saying he’s a lesser manager for it or that he’s only a checkbook manager, blah blah blah. (It’s roughly the same as saying it’s a shame Kevin Durant chose to go to the Warriors, though I don’t care about the NBA.)

        1. “Congrats, you’ve gotten to the heart of what interests me on this issue, i.e. what would Pep do with a “big club” that doesn’t have unlimited funds and/or doesn’t have easily the biggest budget/draw in their domestic league.”

          Barca circa 2009-12?

          Real transfers dwarfed those of Barca during that period .
          £269m -Real Madrid
          £110m Barca

          1. Pep inherited an extremely talented–though aging and troubled–squad at Barca in 2009, and a talent production line in their youth system that was absolutely unrivaled in world football. He did a fantastic job. He got rid of the “bad eggs,” e.g. Ronaldinho and Deco, brought through young players, made Messi central to everything, etc, etc.

            But let’s not pretend Barca and Real weren’t roughly equal in terms of attractive destinations for players and ability to pay top dollar, or that they didn’t have a ridiculous advantage over the rest of their domestic “rivals”. And it’s also worth noting that they were and are two of the very biggest (easily in the top five, arguably the top two, though maybe the oil-money clubs are changing that) clubs in Europe, so can take talent from almost any club in any league when they want.

            Thus, Pep’s job at Barca is not comparable to what it would require to have that same level of success (and same amazing style) at a club like Arsenal or Liverpool or Spurs or Dortmund or even Juve/Milan/Inter, etc, etc. Again, THIS IS NOT A KNOCK ON PEP AS A MANAGER. Rather, this is about what would be fascinating to see as a fan: not give the most talented guy in the room all of the best “materials” (i.e. players, facilities, etc) to work with, but instead see what he can do when he doesn’t *also* have that kind of advantage.

          2. Hey, PFO, I just responded to what you posted .
            Big club with out unlimited funds and one that doesn’t have easily the biggest budget / draw in their domestic league.
            Your own words dude
            Barca fits the bill to a tee.

          3. They are/were roughly *tied* for “easily the biggest budget/draw in their domestic league” and were back in 2009. That’s what I was addressing. The fact that Messi was already there, having come through the ranks–the greatest player in the history of football!–to say nothing of Iniesta, Xavi, etc, whereas Madrid had to buy Ronaldo and co for world record transfers, might explain why Madrid’s spending was greater in that time period, but it doesn’t for a minute suggest that Barca are/were somehow a smaller, poorer, less prestigious, or less competitive club than Madrid. (And, yes, when I said “biggest”, I assumed that someone reading my post generously would recognize that I meant biggest-or-perhaps-tied-with-one-other-as-biggest, since, all else being equal, winning the league over one other similarly-resourced rival is less of a challenge than winning the league over, say, five other similarly-resourced rivals, or, say, winning the league over a team that is by a wide margin stronger than you (e.g. Klopp’s Dortmund, Simeone’s Athletico).)

            So you can continue to argue by interpreting my points in the most literal, wooden, ungenerous way possible, or you can address the spirit of my points with actual, reasonable points back.

      3. Yeah I agree with all of your points. Geez when you put it that way it’s a grim picture of how much work is there to be done.

    2. Who cares about Arsenal and their moaning ‘ I didn’t see that ‘ manager. Arsenal very rarely beat Stoke on a calm and Sunny Saturday, Tony Pulis would have a better chance of winning the league with Arsenal, as he would make sure the players grow a pair.

      1. Arsenal v Stoke in Premier League

        P 19 W11 D3 L5

        While that is an admittedly poor record for a club of Arsenal’s calibre vs a club of Stoke’s, it pretty easily clears the bar of “very rarely.”

    3. Pep could definitely win the league with Arsenal. I think the right manager could win the league with any of the top 6 sides, though certainly not every season. The two Manchester clubs are in a different tier than the other 4 sides because of the combination of revenue and willingness to spend. Because of that, they should have an expectation of challenging for the league every season. Chelsea are close to this but Roman has become more Underwriter than Sugar Daddy and hence they’re a smidge above the other 3 in likeliness to challenge but below the top two.

      Arsenal should be the biggest of the remaining 3 but I think they’re more even because even without Wenger, I think Kroenke wouldn’t be willing to not make a sizable profit. Still, even with that handicap, a current world class manager could absolutely win the league with Arsenal’s resources. I fully expect Pep to win the league with City at a canter for the next 2-3 seasons and the fuck off somewhere else to prove himself with another project, maybe in Italy or France. That’s when hypothetical new world class manager at Arsenal should be aiming to win the league.

      The trick, of course, is finding that guy. Ideally this replacement would be a person stepping up to this level with new ideas. That, combined with a modern recruitment department that is buying a combination of well-scouted youngsters, slightly undervalued established professionals and the odd big splash, is how you win the league with the 3,4,5 highest spend. This is mostly what Arsenal has tried to do in the post-austerity era, imagining Ozil and Sanchez as the splashes, Chambers/Holding/etc as well-scouted youngsters, Elneny/Gabriel/Welbeck as your slightly undervalued established professionals.

      It could have worked. But Wenger isn’t the manager for the modern times to gel those folks into a squad, also we either lost critical players to injury (Cazorla) or injury and underdevelopment (Wilshere, Ramsey. Ox, etc.) We also did not get value for money in our medium splash purchases (Mustafi, Xhaka) and we struck out on pretty much all of those slightly undervalued established professionals.

      I think if Pep took over Arsenal in 2013 and had exactly the same budget as Wenger, Arsenal would have won at least one league title and possibly two. He’d probably have fucked off by now but the team would have been well positioned to have been taken over by a competent manager and continuing to go on well.

      The key is nailing that Wenger replacement when it happens. I don’t really trust this board to nail that, but we can only hope.

    4. Happy holidays, all.

      To NYC’s question, Pep would, on the evidence, most likely improve Arsenal. How much? We don’t know. It’s all speculative. It’s all speculative, because Pep doesn’t take unsure bets with career. Or hadn’t so far. It doesn’t make him a bad person, or anything other than the fabulous coach that he is. And he does not have to prove anything to anyone by doing otherwise. It’s his prerogative. For me, someone who admires Pep with qualification, it isn’t black and white. I can admire his brilliance AND say that he’s operated only at the top table, so the praise is conditional and qualified.

      He went from managing the best individual-talented team in the world, to managing the German monopoly team and European champions when he took over. I don’t think that pointing this out and asking how how he’d do at Stoke are the same thing. That something else that’s entirely speculative.

      He is both a great football brain AND one who has unlimited spending at his disposal. The latter IS an important factor.

      Give jack his jacket though… the work he’s done with Sane (my favourite City player) and Sterling has been phenomenal. Delph is a better player under Pep, but remains unexceptional. We gooners were last year taunting City about Rob Holding being better than 40M + Stones (which he was). Stones is now a really good centre-half, but in truth, the only way for him was up.

      They’re going to run away with the league this year. I’m not so sure, like NYC is, that they’d still walk it without KDB. My view is more in line with PFo’s. The acid test will be Europe, and remember he added Alcantara to Jupp Heynckes’ Champions League winning squad, but failed to win it again.

      There’s no doubt that they’re playing tasty football though.

      1. Yep. Really, really interesting to see what will happen when City meet PSG/Bayern/Barca/Real in the CL knockout rounds.

  4. Have you consider de-keywording your blog now thst you’re no longer showing ads?

    It’s not that I mind dissenting opinions, so long as they are thoughtfu. It’s just that everytime you put Beetlejuice in the headline annoying trolls show up. And frankly, all they do is lower the level of the discourse with comments like, “[Pulis] would make sure the players grow a pair.”

    If you just refer to them as the orcs then it won’t show up in their newsnow feeds.

    What’s funny is that your kind of high quality writing is so in demand that followers of rival teams will click through even though you don’t have a clickbait headline.

    I think you shoukd try a patreon fir a year. I would ante up.

  5. Not only have Pep and Jose spent almost identical amount of money ( net spend) during their two years in Manchester , but so have both clubs in the last five years -£575 m total net spend, which is almost uncanny.

    Could Pep do his magic at Stoke?
    Couldn’t give two shi#s about whether he could or not, but I’m glad he wouldn’t even consider it.

    I find it extremely entertaining that the ones crying the loudest about Guardiola being the checkbook manager are the Arsenal and Wenger supporters proud of the fact Wenger opted to spend only £10m in the Summer leading up to Leicester City winning the title, while the Arsenal cash accounts were oscillating between £160-220m that year. Fu#king hilarious!

    Im well aware where the Man City money comes from and I despise any regime that discriminates against women, gays and other minorities.
    I don’t support them and if they lose one game this season , I hope it’s on Feb 25th at the EMS against Arsenal.

    I also love how Pep’s detractors are quietly moving the goal posts.
    First, he had to win the PL to prove himself in the most competitive league in the world. Unlike the duopoly and monopoly of Spain and Bundesliga.
    Now that he’s basically done it in one half of the season, he needs to win the CL and maybe the FA cup as well. Anything less just wont do.

    To each their own I guess. For my money he’s been the best manager in the world and playing the most attractive football without any doubt.

    1. For a few years now Mourinho has become a caricature. He started believing his own press. Duncan Castles will be working overtime.

  6. The similarities between Mourinho and Pep are only that they both have spent a lot of money on the teams they’ve managed, and that they both don’t stay at the same club for an extended period of time.

    I agree Pep could win the league at Arsenal. I also think Arsene Wenger could. Yeah yeah I see you rolling your eyes at the back. But even with Pep, I think Arsenal’s odds of winning would still remain roughly similar. Even though Pep will do a better, or at least more regimented and focused job. Anyhow, that’s moot because Pep Guardiola seems to pick the jobs which allows him the most freedom. Arsenal, with our fund restraints aren’t going to do that.

  7. “Anyhow, that’s moot because Pep Guardiola seems to pick the jobs which allows him the most freedom.”

    I could argue Arsenal have provided Wenger with more freedom than any other top club ever would.
    Even freedom of framing what constitutes success.

    1. Hah right. Wenger isn’t answerable to anybody!! By which you mean you don’t like that he doesn’t answer to you.

      1. You seem to find it perfectly fine that Wenger isn’t answerable to fans.
        I find that one of the more serious problems at our club. Who is he answerable to ? Kroenke ? Is Kroenke asking the right questions ?

        1. Fans have always had the ‘power’ to vote with their feet..and now eyes I guess. Fans also have the ability to interact with the board in the proper fora, and Arsenal are better at that than most, even if it remains unappreciated by many fans. Fans are not supposed to run the club nor dictate to the board and manager how to do things.

  8. Guardiola’s net spend at Bayern over the three years he was in charge was £83m, which was only £13m more than what Jupp Heynckes had spent at Bayern in just one year prior to Pep’s arrival.
    Has anyone called him a checkbook manager? Of course not.

    Arsene Wenger spent almost double what Pep did during those three seasons but let’s not allow this inconvenient fact ruin the neatly creative narrative shall we.

    But maybe Guardiola had spent a fortune in the three years before when he was winning everything in sight while at Barca.
    A £110m net spent between the 2009-10 and 2012-13 seasons can hardly be considered obscene by any top club’s standards.
    ( all figures from transfermakt)

    1. Spending from what base?

      Besides, Bayern’s spending environment is totally different. They dominate the German market, a market flush with great young talent, and as is now evident, even manage transfers for other clubs like they did with Gnabry. So no, it’s not just about what one manager spends in a specific year.

      And there’s no inconvenient fact here. Wenger did something I don’t think Guardiola could do, keep Arsenal in 4th place with a couple of title challenges, despite years of low to negative spending. Mainly because it seems to me Guardiola wouldn’t even accept that challenge. They are two great managers with differences in age and in what they’ve geared their career towards achieving. Guardiola has achieved a lot. He’s also worked with some elite talent. That doesn’t take away from his genius. But it remains a fact that he’s had more ‘freedom’ than most other managers too.

      If he’d joined City right after Barcelona and got them playing this way, then maybe I’d be more gaga over him. But City spent years building the base of this side, and they still needed Guardiola, and he still needed their money to make this happen.

    2. When you have Robben, Ribery, Lewa and Muller in your forward line alone, you don’t really need to go shopping for forwards, do you? Lewa and Hummels (arguably the best ball-playing centre back in the world), joined on frees. Net spend, in this instance, is not really the best comparative argument.

      1. Exactly. And he got Gotze, the most exciting young talent in world football at the time, for absolute peanuts, and barely used him (ok, that’s hyperbole, but you get the point). And Thiago, another potentially world class young talent, for absolute peanuts. And he inherited a treble-winning squad.

        We’re not arguing Pep is anything less than a brilliant manager. The point is the challenge he’d have if he came to Arsenal today (or came in 2013, though arguably it’d be harder today) would be greater than any challenge he’s faced thus far in his career. Ergo, the challenge Wenger has faced, to win the “big trophies” with Arsenal over the last few years, has been a greater challenge than those that Pep has faced (ok, ok, the Leicester year, when all the big clubs were busy seeing who could f*ck up the most, aside). This is NOT to suggest that Pep’s achievements thus far–not just winning, but winning repeatedly in glorious, dominant fashion–are any less impressive. And I personally think if Pep had the job (now or in 2013), he’d go on and win the league with us.

  9. Again, look at who is or are on the teams when pup gets to his desired location .
    Who has to net spend when you have Iniesta and Messi on your teams. Lather rinse repeat.

  10. Just ask yourself a simple question.
    Would Wenger’s coaching improve this City side and if so , then how?
    And then reverse the question.

  11. No way would KDB and Sterling be playing at the same level under Wenger as they have been recently under Pep. We all knew KDB was talented but this season he has taken his game to an elite level and is being rightfully compared to players like Messi and Ronaldo. Perhaps under the old Wenger it might have been possible but I don’t see how this current version of Wenger would have gotten the same level of output from him. Players like Xhaka, Bellerin, Ox – all regressed under him (or at least, didn’t improve). He has never been able to get the best out of Ozil by any measure of consistency. Sterling was close to becoming another over-rated English player before Pep but now he looks like a real talent – though I think he can and will improve more under him. You think Alexis will go to City, consistently give the ball away like he doesn’t want to be anywhere near a football and get away with it? Not in a million years. Pep will either drill that out of him or bench him.

    Wenger needs a new playbook because the ones from 1996 aren’t working anymore.

    1. Depends on what we mean by the “top step”. It *might* be the difference between them finishing above us and one other big team for fourth spot, but I very much doubt it’s the difference between them looking remotely like challenging for the title and not, since I very much doubt it’s the difference between them having a solid defense and not.
      Their defense, BOTH in terms of personnel and in terms of organization/discipline/tactics/cohesion is an Arsenal-level shambles, and buying one very good (probably not world class, yet) CB is not going to change that. I honestly think he’d have more of an effect on our backline than on theirs, since I think our individual defenders are mostly better than theirs.

    2. well… no. Their problem isn’t simply personnel, though their personnel are somewhat comical. It’s systemic. They play with a single, slow, not-very-defensive-midfielder and gift opposition teams space in behind (sound familiar?)

      What they need is a more balanced approach and some midfielders who can play defense (sound familiar?).

  12. “Despite spending the same money on his team as Guardiola, Jose’s team already plays like Stoke. ”
    That one caused me to burst out laughing. But the thing is, they’re not even as good as Stoke playing like Stoke. Maybe another few hundred million and they might get there. Neither Stoke or any Mourihno team seem to have any real trouble with us though…

  13. Jose is a cancer on football (the way he chews up and spits out delightful creative players like Mkhitaryan and Mata makes me sick), and maybe, just maybe, people will begin to see him for the fraud he is and he’ll stop being hired for the top jobs.

    More likely he’ll go to PSG, if not this summer, then next.

  14. How the hell is Liverpool paying £75 mil for VVD? Isn’t their gross revenue lower than ours? Maybe the bigger question is why. VVD doesn’t seem to be the kind of defender that will make them champions by blocking everything that comes his way. Since Man City were also interested in him, it seems to me they had to overpay to land him. I guess their hierarchy is doing everything they can to get Klopp his man.

  15. I feel sorry for Southampton, who’ve had yet another of their good players hoovered up by Liverpool (you can count Ox in that number, albeit indirectly). Liverpool unsettled van Dijk, and Soton got nothing out of him for half a season. The size of the fee should go some way towards salving that. But, from a Southampton POV, it sucks.

      1. lol.

        That’d be good for Theo, and for them. That’s about the level of club he could start regularly for and get 20 a season.

  16. Managers spending to their clubs’ fullest financial capabilities, wow! Imagine that.

    Not us though, thank goodness we have a sensible manager in charge who treats the club’s money like his own.

    Whatever place in the league table Arsenal take come May, in purely financial terms, Arsenal will have made most money for the season 2017-18 when transfers outlay is taken under consideration.
    And that you can take to the bank.

  17. Look guys, Pep spent a fortune transforming an already talented but unmotivated City into this slick machine.

    Now imagine, the kind of price tag needed to come into Arsenal and transform this team into City’s juggernaut.

    Record breaking spend countered with a record breaking team. If you want to spend $$, there is no better guy to entrust your money to Pep.

    Though we all know Stan is not the spending type.

    So the point is moot. Pep wants his team to play PepBall and that is not going to happen until he gets the kind of players that he wants; which won’t happen since our owner wouldn’t do so.

  18. Pep took the best player of the 2014-15 Bundesliga season and made him into the best player of the PL and one of the five best in Europe .
    Mourinho took the best player of the 2015-16 Bundesliga season and is well on his way to ruining his career and turning him into dog sh$t.

  19. OK, folks, this is it.

    The turnaround starts today.
    No more mediocre play.
    Lots of goals.
    Defenders defending.
    Midfielders midfielding.
    And an Ozil in a pear tree.

    Who’s with me? I thought so…

    1. The problem with our turnaround is that they of the 360 degree variety so eventually end up in the same spot.

  20. I don’t know about any turnaround but I’ll take an ugly 1:0 win.
    Arsenal better start putting some points on the board and quick, or I’m gonna have to start composing a carefully crafted apology post to Tim for slagging off his prediction of Arsenal finishing 10 th in the league.

  21. Hi everyone, it’s freaking cold in the northeast, in other words, it’s time to stay indoors and watch arsenal be arsenal and hopefully not arsenal it up. Ever notice how arsenal can be a noun, adjective or verb?

    Pep dreams are fun, but dreams they remain. Financial realities are depressing and predictable. Know what else is predictable? Jose Mourinho.

    I enjoyed Tom’s comment about what would happen if Wenger took over at City right now. They’d still win the league. But, i don’t think they’d be as sharp and as focused as consistently. If Pep took over Arsenal right now, we still wouldn’t win the league. But, we would play better and probably canter into a CL place. As it is, my prediction is that it will come down to the last game of the season.

  22. We’ve had a long rest, and we won’t Arsenal it up*. I predict a (goal) riot. We’ll score 4, and concede one, two maximum. One will be a headed goal by Benteke. Here’s to my football betting business in 2018.

    * Royalties to Dr. Gooner.

  23. One early thing to note… we are (perhaps worryingly) light on ball-winning ability and physicality, front and centre. I expect Welbeck to feature, or Coquelin if we’re defending a narrow lead. My read of the squad and bench is that Elneny’s good as gone, and Jack will stay. If Theo had been Saints bound, he wouldn’t be involved at all today.

    1. Thankfully their midfield isn’t very energetic and we’re getting a lot of second chances after 50/50’s. In general they aren’t really closing down; they even let Alexis see daylight on his right foot cutting in. He seemed so surprised he didn’t even know what to do with it: “Teams NEVER let me do that anymore! I’m like the PL Robben except I don’t play for Bayern Munich and I’m right footed.”

      Also thankfully Oliver isn’t buying Zaha’s attempts to sell fouls.

  24. jack wilshere is the new pirlo! fantastic performance from him so far. delightful ball for alexis’ second. he’s feeling it. time for xhaka to go to the bench.

    1. …not to mention, jack won the ball in the buildup to that goal. he’s finally putting some intelligence with that talent.

      1. I’m all for Xhaka spending some time on the bench, but Jack should absolutely not be asked to play as a lone holding midfielder. It may not be Xhaka’s position either, but it’s DEFINITELY not Wilshere’s!

  25. I’ll take the credit for Wilshere’s assist to Sanchez, I said last week he doesn’t have that kind of pass in him so obviously he was going to prove me wrong. You can thank me any time.

  26. Such an Arsenal game. Missing chances, opposition scores with first shot on goal, can’t close the game, biting nails ’til the end… I’m getting all misty with nostalgic sentiment. Great stuff. Glad I watched. Just have to un-clench my sphincter now.

    Wilshere was very good, the best I’ve seen him since 2012: not just the Hollywood assist but 94% passing and some good defending. Trick for him is to sustain this level without getting injured. Arsene will have an interesting decision to make when Ramsey returns to fitness. IF, and this is a big IF, this kind of performance becomes his norm, AND, and this is a big AND, he signs a new contract with Arsenal then MAYBE, and this is a big MAYBE, we might have found the “Cazorla” type midfield shuttle player Tim referenced above.

    1. “……not just the Hollywood assist but 94% passing and some good defending”.

      Spot on, doc.

      His defending and positional discipline, more than the Hollywood pass (what a pass, what a take, what a finish), is what caught my eye. He was good in the tackling and marking, better than I thought that he could play there. It shows that he has the versatility to play deep, AND as a 10.

      In an exchange with PFo a couple of months ago, we both were of the view that he players better with better, more technically skilled players. He is back, in good form atm. He’s a different Jack too. He does fewer dribble/bursts too, and doesn’t seem to think that he can win a game on his own. He sees the field, and the play, very well. Not Fabregas well, but he’s showing a good tactical/game brain.

      He was very good today.

      1. Wait, who were the “we” in that exchange with PFo?!? Was I one of them, because I would just like to state for the record that I have been one of Jack’s most consistent supporters on this blog! Unlike many fans, I NEVER suggested that his time at Bournemouth showed he wasn’t good enough for Arsenal.

        And speaking of exchanges on here in past months, I recall a discussion with Doc I had in which he claimed categorically that Jack and Ramsey couldn’t work in a midfield three because our brief flirtation with them in that formation in the fall of 2014 proved as much by being a “disaster”.
        I never got to respond properly to that claim, but I wanted to point out that there were plenty of mitigating circumstances that meant that such a brief trial couldn’t possibly prove anything of the sort: for one thing, both Ramsey and Jack were in middling form at the time, as was Ozil (post WC hangover), who was complaining about being shunted out wide (whereas now he’s grown comfortable playing “from” the right in an only slightly different role in the 3-4-3), while Alexis had just come to the club, Arteta/Flamini were both on their last legs at the base of the midfield, we still lacked a mobile top quality striker, etc, etc. And actually the formation was starting to show signs of promise (and Jack starting to get some form), right when Paddy F*ckin McNair’s ugly tackle condemned him to another long spell on the sidelines.
        I bring all this up to say: Doc, you suggest above that Jack and Ramsey will have to fight it out for one spot, but if we’re increasingly looking to play 4-3-3 (Ozil, Laca, Alexis up front, assuming the latter stays in January), and you yourself are acknowledging that Jack could be growing into a “Cazorla-type” for us, then why on Earth should we assume that he can’t play alongside Ramsey (who no one would confuse for a Cazorla type!) and one holding-type (Xhaka or someone better) in a midfield trio??? This seems like the obvious combo to me, going forward.

        1. Yes, I am not a Wilshere believer but I hope he proves me wrong. I just think expecting him to play this well in every game going forward is unrealistic. Good for him and good for Arsenal right now though.

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