Cynicism is the only way to hold off the heartbreak

If you ask me what moment most defined Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal I will of course say winning the League at White Hart Lane. For three reasons: one, we won the League there at the ground of the old enemy; two, several of the players didn’t even know that a draw would be good enough to win the League; and three, because he convinced his team to keep going after that win and finish the season undefeated which included a comeback draw against Pompey and a comeback win over Leicester on the final day of the season.

And if you ask me which image is most burned into my mind from Arsene Wenger’s years since the Invincibles it’s Wenger clutching Pat Rice in the final 4 minutes of the final game of the 2011/12 season:

That was the season that Cesc Fabregas turned his back on his “father figure” and demanded a cut-price trade to Barcelona. That was the season of the 8-2 loss to Man U, the 4-3 loss to Blackburn (who?), the trolley dash to get Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta, the 5-3 win over Chelsea (at the Bridge), the 5-2 win over Tottenham, and a whole season just full of madness at Arsenal. The team just couldn’t quite right the ship and went through a period where they won just two out of nine (in the League) and then ended the season winning just two of seven.

Tottenham crept up on Arsenal and in the final day of the season, because arsenal had drawn three in a row to Chelsea, Stoke and Norwich, Arsenal needed a win to finish third and absolutely secure Champions League football for the next season, because Chelsea would go on to finish 6th but win the Champions League and take the 4th place trophy away from Tottenham Hotspur.

I’ve written about this image before. I’ve written about everything in Wenger’s career before, fifteen times, but I’ll say it again: it’s so touching to me because Wenger is truly vulnerable in this moment. It’s the frantic final moments of Arsenal’s worst season under Wenger. Wenger had started Santos in the left back position but Santos had been a disastrous signing and West Brom tortured him all game (even though he scored). Late in the match, Wenger brought on Gibbs and pushed Santos forward, and it was Kieran Gibbs who tackled the ball away from Billy Jones to save Arsenal’s season.

Wenger couldn’t hold it together any more, as Gibbs went in for that tackle his studiously cool exterior dropped off and he just reached out for Pat Rice. He couldn’t bear to look.

This image symbolizes Arsene Wenger’s management philosophy as well. Instead of a well drilled team that just took West Brom apart, Wenger’s jazz ensemble blew sour notes all match, all season really, until they came up with just enough music at the end of the season to march off into third place and secure Champions League football for one more year.

Just like Wenger hugging Pat Rice, I have a feeling that Griezmann doing his chicken dance is going to stay with me for a long time as well.

All season long I’ve been able to manage my expectations. “10th place,” I said at the start of the season, “anything above 10th place in the League and I’ll be happy.” When Arsenal got to the League Cup final against Man City, I said “no chance”. After all, I’d been at the last League Cup final for Arsenal and if Arsene Wenger couldn’t beat Birmingham City we had no chance against Man City. And all season long I have scoffed at anyone suggesting that Arsenal could win the Europa League – “have you seen the other teams? This isn’t the Europa League of a few years ago. Besides they have to beat Atletico Madrid and I can’t see that happening.”

But after Wenger announced his retirement, I let the old irrational brain takeover and decided I wanted one last huzzah for Wenger. I wanted to see him lift the Europa League trophy.

Wenger clutching Pat Rice, me clutching Wenger, both of us burying our eyes and hoping for a result.

Before yesterday’s match, I just wanted to see Arsenal give it their all. I just thought that if Arsenal could play hard, stand up to Atletico Madrid, and get a few goals, we could win the match and the whole stadium could sing “there’s only one Arsene Wenger.” It’s what I want for Arsene. I want him to be cheered by the supporters on his way out.

And Arsenal nearly did. The team did play hard right from the start (or nearly) and Atletico found it very hard to keep up with Arsene’s men. They were chasing shadows and reduced to kicking Arsene’s men off the ball. Atleti left back, Vrsaljko, was rightly sent off for two stupid, studs up tackles on Arsenal. The last of which was unquestionably a yellow card and the minute in the match is irrelevant. The referee didn’t change the contest, the player, putting his foot in on Lacazette after getting a yellow card for a professional foul earlier in the match, changed the contest.

After the sending off Arsenal really went for it and between the 12th and the 30th minute, Arsenal took 10 shots, 9 of them inside the 18 yard box, and two of them “big chances”. But still they couldn’t score.

Arsenal were getting in crosses, getting off headed shots from those crosses but despite the overwhelming number of shots, Oblak only saved two shots – a header from Wilshere and a big chance from Welbeck. Arsenal were profligate.

Arsenal did take the lead eventually. Yet another headed shot, Arsenal took 10 headed shots in all in this game, which is about 10% of the total headed shots they have taken this season. This was clearly Wenger’s game plan – crosses in to headers for Lacazette to win – and it’s not a terrible one considering that nearly half of Atletico’s goals allowed this season have been off headers.

And it was an excellent all around team goal as well. Arsenal won the ball back at the edge of the box, Wilshere got into a great position and just lobbed up a ball for Lacazette who beat two much bigger men to the header and placed it exactly where Oblak couldn’t reach it.

After that, Arsenal created more chances, most notably Lacazette hitting the post just 8 minutes later. Arsenal were in cruise control. They were patiently creating chances and Atletico were doing nothing. By fulltime Atletico would create just two shots in that second half. Atletico would have just 99 passes in the second half, just 26 in the Arsenal final third.

But in what has to be the most perfectly Wengerball 2006-2018 way, Danny Welbeck tried to dribble four players at the same time, Ramsey wasn’t anywhere near enough to make a defensive move to shut down the long ball, Nacho Monreal was strolling back, Mustafi wasn’t keeping his line, and a Hail Mary pass to Griezmann set off a series of unfortunate events.

There are so many familiar problems here in this photo. Arsenal keeping the Wenger high line at or beyond the half-way mark in a match where they are winning 1-0. No pressure on the ball (though that’s a bit tough since Welbeck literally ran away from his teammate to go over and give the opposition the ball). Players all over the pitch switched off and in ridiculous positions (Monreal and Mustafi). And the space in behind. THE SPACE IN BEHIND.

Even still, Koscielny outmuscles Griezmann to the ball but only manages to clear the ball into his own face. Even still, Ospina saves the first big chance, only to palm the ball back to Griezmann. Even still, Griezmann’s shot is literally blocked into the net by Mustafi.

This disorganization-induced-calamity in big games is the exact reason why so many people have been clamoring for Wenger to leave Arsenal for so many years. Arsenal literally couldn’t have allowed a more “Arsene Wenger” goal than this one right here. We’ve seen this exact goal so many times that even pundits like Stewart Robson could see it coming.

One hand on the trophy. 10 minutes. And it was all undone by a moment of madness. It’s heartbreaking.

Yeah, I know there’s a second leg still to play but I’m crawling back to the safety of my cynical opinion: Arsenal have no chance of winning this trophy. We have seen this all before, too many times, and I’m sorry to say it but cynicism is the only way to hold off the heartbreak.




  1. It truly is the hope that gets you in the end.
    Even the crudest defensive tactic of “when we lose the ball, everyone run towards our goal and pack the prime shooting positions with bodies” would be an upgrade on what we do at the moment.

  2. You pointed out all the mistakes right! Monreal.. Mustafi.. Kos,. Ramsey.. But whats the percentage here for Welbeck? 4 guys on you.. not an dribbler even in his best days.. numersous instances in the game showed the only way ATM were getting the ball back is by tacking the dribbler.. still… is this a problem of maturity? Too much to ask of Welbz? Or of any arsenal player?

    1. I found Welbeck frustrating all match. He couldn’t find the right passes, he lost possession too easily, and his floppy little nonsense after taking on four players led to the goal. Can’t stand him as a player. Wilshere, too. Please get rid.

  3. Seriously though, our last major European semi-final at the Emirates was over after 5 minutes when Gibbs slipped trying to stop Ronaldo’s cross from getting to Park.

    That was the game where it dawned on me that we’d never win a European title with Wenger and probably wouldn’t win another League title with him either. A year earlier we collapsed in the QF at Anfield after the Walcott run and Adebayor away goal because we couldn’t keep our heads with just 6 minutes left to play.

    And here we are 9 years later and another comedy of errors wrecks our chances. It’s not a coincidence when the same thing happens over and over again.

  4. Massive failing throughout Wengers reign that we need to address is squad depth. Far to often bench’s are weak which allow little rotation or opportunities to adjust mid game.

    1. This comment made even more ban worthy by your reply to someone yesterday telling them to be civil.

      1. Is this permanent? I don’t much like putting myself out there on the internet. The speed with which things seem to get harsh/coarse is off-putting, and somehow the anonymity makes it all read that much worse to me. But, isn’t this guy a regular? If permanent seems a bit harsh.

        1. If they email me, I usually consider releasing them. But let’s be clear what they just said to me: “you’re like a misogynist murderer” because I am back to being cynical about Arsenal.

          I’m ok with people having different opinions but I do have some lines and calling people things like that is one of the lines. Like if someone calls Wenger a pedo. Or Adebayor an elephant washer. I pay to host this site and I’m not going to have people act like that on my site. Regular or not.

          And besides, the regulars all know this already.

          1. Yeah, fair enough. It was a bad look.

            If I squinted hard enough I thought I could maybe see what the poster might have been trying to say, and if it happened to be that particular thing, then it was a subject I would have been interested in exploring. But, use of the term does take a big dump on the possibility of any generosity in interpretation.

            Interestingly, now that we are here, is given the confidence with which people in the US made discrete interpretations/rationalizations of generally ambiguous and/or bigoted statements has led to our current and unfortunate political leadership, here I recognize my doing something similar.

          2. There was a great episode of Hidden Brain podcast where some studies have been done that show that now Trump has won there has been a major uptick in people being openly bigoted, but only against the people he goes after. So the number of bigoted comments against fat people, Mexicans, and blacks has gone up but not against Russians or Canadians, etc.

          3. Serious question: is it really possible to be bigoted against Canadians or Russians? I thought only white people were able to be bigoted and only nonwhite populations are able to be the victims of bigotry.

          4. I should clarify that gender, sexual orientation, etc can also be a target for a kind of bigotry but I guess what I’m asking is can it ever work the other way? If so I’ve yet to see it.

          5. Trump is bigoted, racist, arrogant, ignorant, and dangerous.

            Trump is America without its makeup on.

      2. Lol! Indeed, it would seem the burden of civility must be carried only by those who have the “wrong” opinions…

          1. This is not gloating. I’m staggered how ill-advised lacking in self-awareness that comment was.

          2. Nobody is defending the comment, but I hate to see someone cheered off to the gallows. He erred, he was punished. No need to pile on.

      3. While a poor comment, I didn’t read this as being nearly as insulting as calling someone a pedo for example, or insulting their race or ethnic origin. The only exposure I had to the term “incel” was that dark corner of Reddit. It seems like a grimier way of calling someone either a misogynist or a loser. Also, scrolling back through Duh’s comments, there’s no indication that he would go to great lengths to insult or harass someone. If it was an attempt to knock you down, he could’ve put a bit more effort in.

        Out of curiosity, is there anything preventing him from.commenting under another name? Or is the ban connected to his IP address?

        1. The context around that word being in the news can’t be ignored. Sort of precludes a discussion about moral relativism.

          Whatever your point of view is, it’s a good reminder that we’re all just guests here.

    2. I had to look up what incel was… Wow. Not only is that horribly rude I am struggling to see the thinking behind how that even makes sense. Wtf man.

      1. Yeah same here. I always learn new words on the internet and end up wishing I never bothered to go online.

      2. Same. First time hearing it. Apparently a term also used by the Toronto van attack suspect.

  5. Making it worse, in the US, we had to deal with the inane nattering of Alexei Lalas. If you were lucky enough not to be subjected to his “commentary”, he claimed that the foul for the 2nd yellow was not worthy of a yellow and even if it was, it shouldn’t have been given as it was too early in the game to send someone off. Moron.

    1. I was screaming at Lalas the whole game. He kept circling back to the “incorrect 2nd yellow” throughout the whole match, maddening.

    2. The halftime show on FS1 had some guy insisting that it was soft. That made me so mad. Every time I saw it on replay it was clear the Croat left his foot in. WTF does one have to do to get a job as a pundit? Is it just trolling fans at half-time?

  6. After reading this I’m even more depressed. I have a feeling that after Wenger leaves, even though he used to be a winner, I will remember him as a stubborn outdated manager, feeling irritated that he couldn’t or wouldn’t change what everyone saw had to change.
    Such a shame.

  7. Great atmosphere in the stadium, Oblak was quality, his late save from the Ramsey header was top class.
    Yes, it’s disappointing but our best performances in this competition have been the away games, which is odd given how rubbish we’ve been generally away from home this season. So maybe there’s one more twist to go?

    1. Unfortunately, Atletico don’t concede goals at home, and so all they really have to do next week is defend and hit us on the break, which, with this shambles of a defense, means you can score on every two chances or so. Pathetic.

      I think what grates particularly is that we were gifted pretty much the perfect chance to win against the strongest possible team in the competition, a result which would have given us a good opportunity of winning the tie and setting us up in the final against a team we could reasonably expect to beat.

      We utterly failed to take advantage of that chance, and this is just so typical of Wenger’s Arsenal that I’m more upset at myself for expecting it to be any different.

      1. Yes, it’s hard to imagine a stiffer task than going to Ateltico and having to win to progress. When I saw the score was 1-1, I thought, well, that’s not bad! Then I saw the highlights: red card in 10th minute, miss tons of chances, eventually score but concede calamity goal in 80th minute which totally undoes all the good that came before it! Just devastating.

    2. This! We suck at meeting expectations, positive and negative! The team’s overall performance gives me hope.

      Call me naive, but without hope I’ll not have a reason to go on supporting so-called lost causes, such as the intrinsic capacity of people to be good, contrary to countless examples.

  8. It took Monreal 8 seconds to cover 45 meters getting back on the Griezmann goal.

    If he played for Atleti and did that, Simeone would strangle him in full view of the whole stadium at the final whistle and any jury of his peers would return a verdict of justifiable homicide.

  9. I always live in hope when it comes to Arsenal. (And try in life) Whether we win or not, I find it better to say I believed we would win, rather than say yeah, I knew and was prepared for this.

    For me, the feeling that I did not believe in the team, feels like I somehow let them down, and that gives me no joy.

    But I understand the rationale of the cynicism. It does help with the heartbreak. But you lose something too. At least, I find I do.

  10. The first 10 minutes before the sending off, was everything that is right and good about this Arsenal.

    They couldn’t live with us and when Lacazette hit the post, I was convinced that it would only be a matter of time. The party was on when we finally scored. It was only a matter of time…

    …before Griezmann punished us for our amateurishness at our end. Such a shame that a great man’s final few weeks isn’t a happier occasion. That we have to dig deep into sentiment and old memories to remember how Wenger lit up the world with his Arsenal.

    Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

  11. Hey everyone.

    Despite being instantly relieved by the news of his retirement, I think I still had to take several days of mourning before I could come back to comment on anything. Also I’ve been working a lot.

    I feel somehow flat, somehow resigned, somewhat hopeful for next season but mostly just sad that a great career has come to such an ignoble end. And it could’ve been made more ignoble had he not taken the lifeline offered him and declined to resign.

    The current state of an otherwise perfectly all right squad is neatly summarized in the Guardian’s witty but entirely evidence-based “Incompetence index”

    Despite being the 3rd most error prone, least efficient team in the league, we are somehow 6th in points and made it to a cup final as well as a European semifinal. This is not a bad team but it needs better leadership and that’s been the case for some time now.

    I love Arsene Wenger the man and I always will. I am glad Arsene Wenger the manager is departing. His statue at the Emirates should not be long in coming and when I finally do make it to an Arsenal game, I will pay it homage for years of inspiring football, wisdom and model for how to behave professionally and with integrity in a viper pit.

    I wonder if pneumonia had not claimed the life of Herbert Chapman in the pre-antibiotic era if he would’ve encountered a similar fate with the slow seepage of time integrating his own ideas into the wider game and eventually used to dethrone and defeat him. It must happen to all professionals, in all walks, who were once innovators. To mourn the passing of his greatness is to mourn the passing of time. It covers all things. Arsenal football club has been immeasurably enhanced by his stewardship for decades, perhaps centuries to come. He was the modern Chapman. His legacy, like Chapman’s, will be immortal.

    1. Yeah man. I agree it’s a sad time as far as Arsene is concerned. There’s been an obvious decline for a number me years, and maybe he should have left after that first fa cup, but he won up two more after that so who knows, I like to take the positives from those extra trophies.

      Personally, I don’t think anything that he’s done recently overshadows all the amazing highs he’s given us. Some people will disagree and that’s fair enough.

      Someone made a great comment on twitter in the last few days saying that the first half of Wenger’s reign was amazing, but even the last 5 years, with those 3 fa cup wins, is going to be hard to live up to by whoever comes next.

      1. I do agree that the sum total of his resume is not bad even in the latter years, but I do get the feeling there was a lot more in those squads and he was just not able to unlock it for whatever reason. It’ll be interesting to see how he does with a different team.

    2. SAF managed to reinvent himself, learn new tricks and stay at the top throughout his 20+ years. Arguably, he didn’t leave the club in a great state at the end, but they had enough money available to rectify that niggle.

      1. Also, I don’t think he reinvented himself, it was more like he doubled down on what his teams already did really well: defend as a unit and attack with speed. He had just enough talent at the end to make it work one last time. Then he rode off into the sunset and left Moyes to pick up the pieces of an aged squad with no real stars left.

    3. I wonder if we can get that McNaughton guy who does the Alec Baldwin-as-Trump-fishing-with-Eli-Manning paintings to do a “Farewell Arsène” series. What a gift that would be.

  12. Being cyncial is logical. But it’s not the Arsenal way.
    The rollercoaster of 22 years of Wengerball has all been premised on a romantic view of the game – that beautiful football will always win, that you can grow your own, that homegrown will stay loyal to the cause, etc etc – a romanticism often left foundering on the hard rock of pragmatic, money driven EPL footballing reality. But to be a Wenger era Gooner is to dream…
    1-2 to us in Spain, Athletico’s defensive invincibility smashed, Danny W to redeem himself with the second in the 87th minute (mis-volleyed in off his knee).
    You heard it here first.

  13. Ugh, I didn’t even notice Monreal was walking back so casually. That makes it even worse. All of this so symptomatic of a Wenger defense. I feel so bitter.

    1. It’s a good thing Arsenal players decided to put in an extra effort for Wenger to send him off with a European title, otherwise Monreal might’ve have walked on that play.

      Let’s be clear about this.
      Koscielny failed to deal with the situation because he was either unlucky, not good enough, panicked stricken , or because , as many have said that’s just what he often does in big games. Whatever your opinion of Koscielny is, it wasn’t a lack of effort on his part.

      Mustafi, and especially Monreal failed to get back into position as quickly as they could’ve.
      This requires no talent at all and that’s why it’s so criminal.

      If you can’t bring yourself to hustle in a European semifinal at home against a top club like Atleti then you don’t deserve to win.

  14. We’re still in this tie.

    (looks around, see that everyone’s gone dead silent and is watching him like he’s mad, but presses on nonetheless)

    As long as there’s math, there’s hope. We absolutely have to try to score first in Madrid, and we can. It’s what happens after that worries me.


    1. Agree.

      Especially because them scoring one isn’t the end of the world (1-1 still gets us to penalties, at least, and with all of extra time to score a second away goal). So we go for it, super intense, early. An early goal for us makes things very interesting. Yes, we’re likely to concede if they come at us, but of course if they come at us then we have a chance to catch them on the break, and a second away goal for us is a calamity for them.

      Not saying I expect to go through, mind.

      1. Not saying we will either, but we can. The odds are against us based on our recent relative results, but we can.

        I get being pessimistic about our chances, but I don’t get the categorical statements of doom. Especially since Atletico were supposed to batter us yesterday. And Milan before, whatever re-evaluations may have come after.

        Yeah, we effed up badly on their goal. Bit if Im Simeone, I’m pretty peed off about Lacazette’s headed goal too.

        Tie’s in the balance (heart says).

        1. Anything can happen in a one-off game. If we were looking at a best of 7 I’d have already lost interest, but one game? You always have a chance. And it’s not like this is a bunch of amateurs we’re trotting out there. I understand everything people are saying, we are no powerhouse, but if I’m an Atleti fan I’m a little bit nervous about how much of an underdog status a talented Arsenal squad is being handed ahead of this clash. Many stranger things have happened. I also recall people saying on this very forum that we had no chance against Gattuso’s Milan, who, at the time were in great form and hadn’t conceded for several games on the trot. We beat them 3-0.

    2. Liking the faint hope, fellas!

      I wish I could say my realism / pessimism was the source of some kind of perverse pleasure, but the reality is that my overriding emotion yesterday and today is frustration at the offensive toothlessness and (especially) defensive frailty / mental fragility that has been a hallmark of late-Wenger Arsenal.

      I like that we did the unpredictable and beat Milan. Of course. But Atletico Madrid are a much better team, and we royally messed up the gorgeous lifeline that was handed to us. That just felt so Arsenal.

      One thing I will say in support of your optimism: Having a clear mission, being underdogs, and not having to negotiate the tactical / mental morass of deciding how to defend or maintain a slim 1-0 lead on the second leg of an away tie, may work to the advantage of an Arsenal team that has no idea how to negotiate tactical / mental morasses. We don’t know how to defend, so we’ll just do what we always do: attack attack attack pass pass pass, and hope by some fluke that our scrambled high-line defense catches Costa and Griezmann on a bad day.

  15. You wrote what I was thinking as well, Tim. I wonder if we Arsenal fans should take a moment to pat ourselves on the back for being generally optimistic people. That we were able to hope again after all these years of sad predictability must be a sign of character and belief, that we can go from strength to strength given the chance. For me, as soon as the red card was handed over I had a sinking feeling. I thought we were playing really well against 11 men. And then we started missing more chances and this felt very familiar, reminiscent of many seasons in the Fabregas and post-Fabregas years where we would dominate but not score. I’m sad for Wenger.

  16. The most likely outcome of our next two games, Man U and Athletico Madrid both away, is two defeats. If that is the case would it not be better for all concerned if Wenger quietly walked off into the rest of his life rather than face the ignominy of what will be a hostile reception from whatever fans turn up for the final home game of the season against Burnley. A game, incidentally that might well turn out to be a playoff for sixth place.

    1. If the fans will give Wenger a hostile reception in his last home game, they deserve nothing but hell the rest of their footballing lives. I mean that sincerely.

      1. Many fans, who have watched the steady decline of the club’s fortunes over the past several seasons, may already feel that they are in a football hell.

        1. Whatever man. I would be ashamed to call myself an Arsenal fan if that were to happen. I don’t think it will (barring a few idiots)

      2. Rather than stoop to Shard’s level, I’ll let two of the board-members who were instrumental in appointing Wenger in 1996 speak for the fans he’s trying to demonize.

        Last summer David Dein advised him against continuing because his love for football and the Arsenal job was affecting his judgement. And a couple of months ago Hill-Wood said:

        ““He has done fabulously well, it’s just that he’s overstayed his welcome. I find it very sad because he was the great love of many and then it (overstaying his welcome) has destroyed it all.”

        1. Demonize?? Who’s demonizing whom? I really despise this attitude that anything said against the fans is heresy.

          It’s one thing to think Arsene Wenger has overstayed his welcome. I know most on here think that. I can even understand that (though sometimes not the stuff that passes off as ‘fact’) It’s quite another thing to say that Wenger will receive a hostile reception in his last home game (with an underlying tacit approval of this)

          Let’s be clear. If Wenger gets booed at the last home game after 22 years of service, by the stadium that he basically built on his back, that would be a shameful day for Arsenal and I would never want to align myself with those that did it. Not just because I love Wenger, but because I love this club and I do not think this is what this club represents, or should stand for. So to hell with your accusations of demonisation and ‘stooping’ low. Wenger’s given more to the club than all of us put together. If you can’t respect that, you don’t get to demand respect by ‘virtue’ of being a ‘fan’.

          And as it turns out, I do not think it will happen. I have more faith in Arsenal fans, those that you say I like to demonize, than you do.

          1. If in your “underlying tacit approval” comment you are referring to me, I have to say you are entirely wrong. I did not say or imply any such thing.

            Perhaps in the need for clarity I should have said something to the effect that I fear the reception/send off he will receive will be less than generous or fullsome.

          2. Orson, I’ve never read a disrespectful comment from you, and it was clear you had no malicious intent. Quite the opposite.

            One could as soon ask why Shard is flying off the handle at the prospect of something that almost definitely won’t happen. But it’s partly this tendency for all things Arsenal to be all about Wenger that animated the emptying of the Emirates.

            I think if fans do choose to express their unhappiness it’ll be a clear message to the club about allowing our seasons to repeatedly fizzle out the same way. It won’t be about Wenger. People were surprised the stadium wasn’t chock full the game after they announced he’d be stepping down. Again, it’s because they failed to understand that for many fans who stayed away, it’s not all about Wenger.

            The documentary about the Ferguson-Wenger sporting rivalry has been doing the rounds recently. Someone compared it to Ali and George Foreman. This weekend we’ll be watching a Utd-Arsenal game that’s almost devoid of relevance.

            Anyway, none of this really matters anymore. It’s done, and the club is moving on. Better late than never.

  17. 538 had as 40% to go through before the game… and 40% to go through after the game. Not sure I understand how that works. Not even a 1% shift?

    1. If 538 are saying that, might be down to the potential weight of an early away goal leading to an open game in Madrid?

      But yeah, no shift at all seems a little off.

  18. We had nobody on the bench to change the game. So depleted and lacking quality, which is not saying anything against the kids that were on the bench.
    I’m hoping Micki will be fit for the second leg.

    1. Apparently Mkhitaryan should be in the squad on Sunday. The comeback in Spain is happening lads!

      1. I can find nothing on the club’s website that mentions that possibility. The last mention of Mkhitaryan was on Tuesday or Wednesday last when it was stated that the player was not yet training with the first team squad.

        In the absence of any definitive news from an official source I would be reluctant to believe Mkhitaryan will be available next Thursday, but I do hope he is.

        1. Arseblog wrote about it late yesterday. Wenger said at the pre-match briefing that Mkhi is “available”.


          1. Yes it’s on arseblog, but not on the club website as far as I can see.

            Off to watch Liverpool and Stoke now.

      2. ‘But it’s partly this tendency for all things Arsenal to be all about Wenger that animated the emptying of the Emirates.’

        ‘It won’t be about Wenger. People were surprised the stadium wasn’t chock full the game after they announced he’d be stepping down. Again, it’s because they failed to understand that for many fans who stayed away, it’s not all about Wenger.’

        I’m probably misunderstanding the nuance of your point and I know you said ‘partly’ in the first point but those two comments seem unfair to me. It seems like saying when it comes to criticizing Wenger, he’s the predominant reason fans stayed away, but when it comes to criticizing fans, he’s not the predominant reason fans stayed away because they have ‘more on their mind’ than just Wenger.

        It just seems to me like saying fans mostly stayed away because it’s all about Wenger…. while also absolving the fans of any criticism by saying that when they stayed away it was about’more’ than Wenger.

        1. I don’t think it really is about Wenger though. For some the idea is now ingrained that they have to take on the club as an essential part of their relationship. Like that’s their job. To hold the club accountable for ‘my’ money. That this also brings ‘fame’ is a happy outcome for them ‘doing their duty’

          Wenger was just the face of the club. The issue of not winning titles (it used to be trophies) and not having huge transfer spends, is going to remain and is going to continue to cause ‘divisions’. I never really thought the fans would be united if Wenger announced he’s leaving. Yes, there has been a few days of tributes and appreciation, but already we see it thinning out. Many would rather be ungracious to him than let it go and look to the future with hope.

          The fans will be back next season because it will be new. How long any good atmosphere lasts though…
          I’m not sure.

        2. Jeremy, it may seem contradictory but consider this – some of the fans who stayed away absolutely love Wenger to death as a man. Some of the fans who would never leave their seats empty wanted Wenger to step down 7-8 years ago. We’re a mass of contradictions.

          From my perspective as a fan of 28 years, both Wenger and Arsenal’s fans made the Emirates possible and both sides deserve respect for the journey we’ve taken. Fans on both sides of the argument will continuing airing their grievances but the bottom line is everybody needed a clean slate.

  19. On a brighter note, last night I watched the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final away to Chelsea, and I have to say that we have some very good youngsters coming through. Our lads took the lead and by doing so became the only team to score a goal against Chelsea in the whole of this season’s competition. Their goals for and against before last night’s game read 26/0.

    Unfortunately, for us, Chelsea have an incredibly talented youth team and rallied from a goal down to win 3 – 1. In this competition away goals do not count double.

    If Chelsea’s young players continue to develop they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the near future, without spending astronomical sums in the transfer market.

  20. Am I the only uninterested in any new “revelations “ about who Wenger could’ve signed or what clubs he met with and turned down?

    1. I think it IS a part of the Wenger narrative, so it’s ok. He missed out on a posse of players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba.

      He did turn down other opportunities, and that too is part of the narrative. However, he no longer enjoys Real Madrid type pull, and that is a result of remaining at Arsenal too long. Interesting to see where he goes next. He may not enjoy the same security of tenure that Arsenal offered him.

      I think that he’d be an intriguing appointment for a “project build” national team, like USA. I can also see him succeeding Deschamps as France manager.

      1. I can’t see Wenger taking on a national team, he has been so involved 24/7 for twenty odd years at Arsenal that having nothing to do for large parts of the season other than watching his International players in club games would drive him nuts.

  21. Just watched the 89 & Fever Pitch films. We’ve been here before as a club, and will again. Wenger or not, this is our DNA as a club. Hope, disappoinment, hope, GLORY, disappoinment, hope.. And so our cycle continues. We can, but will we? Who knows?! Call me nuts, but this uncertainty has only served to deepen my love for our club.

  22. Orson Kaert

    I did include you when I said ‘tacit approval’ but on reflection, even before I came back on the site to see your reply, I felt that was unfair. I apologise.

  23. “Trump is bigoted, racist, arrogant, ignorant, and dangerous.
    Trump is America without its makeup on.”
    Yet somehow still better for World peace than Clinton would’ve been 🙂

    1. Absolutely. Makeup just hides the ‘ugliness’ from the casual observer after all.

      But, I don’t expect you to understand, because you don’t want to.

  24. Sure thing Shard, whatever you say.

    Name one aspect of Trump’s domestic or foreign policy that supports your claim, because I caould name a dozen (at least) that exposes the fallacy of your thinking.

    1. Everyone loved Obama but he failed to rein in the North Koreans, something Trump has done simply with the right words. Thanks to him the World is a safer place…..for now.

        1. Sorry Orson, the topic of Tim’s article was cynicism not sarcasm, my bad.
          North Korean nukes were always meant to be used as a bargaining chip by the chubby dude with the funny hair.

          Pakistan nukes are a bigger worry.

          1. NK would only give up their nukes under guarantee of protection from China and/or Russia. They remember what was done to them in the 50s, and seen what happened to Iraq and Libya. No way they give up their deterrent on the basis of a promise from the US. So, I don’t really credit Trump with that because really the two Koreas have always seen themselves as one people. The credit Trump gets is to not play too much of a spoiler, and to finally agree to talk to NK rather than turn down their offers for talks like the previous two Presidents did.

            Still no guarantee the US won’t look to muscle its way in on this. I thought I just saw something about Mattis talking about protecting South Korea.

            Pak’s nukes a bigger worry to whom? Certainly not the US (yet) Unless they’re worried about Pak’s closeness to China.

  25. Yes, so it’s 7:30 am here and I’m getting ready to watch City play and not about to spend any length of time debating this with a guy who calls Russia a thriving democracy with a well functioning Parliament ( no offense), so here’s just a few:

    The rollback of Obama -era car fuel, emissions standards, which were projected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 6 billion tons and save 12 billion barrels of oil during the lifetime of cars and trucks complying with these standards.
    Which would definitely prolong the US addiction to foreign oil, which is the predominant reason for the US military presence in places like Middle East and Africa , the presence you hate so much btw.

    Civilian deaths from drone strikes are up by over 200% under Trump mostly due to relaxing of the rules of engagement and taking the civilian oversight out of the equation.

    1. ‘Civilian deaths from drone strikes are up by over 200% under Trump mostly due to relaxing of the rules of engagement and taking the civilian oversight out of the equation.’

      I’m sure I’m misinterpreting but you’re surely not including that statistic as Trump making the world a better place.

      I don’t know man. I can understand people who voted for Trump because they were tired of ‘the establishment’ and wanted an outside candidate to come in, hold the elite accountable and ‘drain the swamp.’ People obviously wanted change so much that they were willing to vote for a white supremacist in all but name who’s racist, sexist and bigoted views were there for all to see. He didn’t even try to hide them, he doubled down on them…and people voted for him anyway.

      Maybe he’s been better than clinton would have been, God knows i’ve never been a fan, but we’ll never know because you’re comparing his track record since taking office with a president who literally doesn’t exist.

      And maybe he’s been better for the world in general but I sincerely doubt it. From ‘the wall’ to ‘grab them by the pussy’ to ‘both sides’ to ‘shit hole countries’, and including every other horrible thing he’s said and done in between, he’s been a disaster and an embarrassment. Whereas most of us are sadly well aware of america’s foreign policy of predatory occupation and ‘diplomatic’ regiem change, we could always separate the foreign policy of rich corporations from the regular american population, at least I could, cm it provided some comfort. Trump has destroyed that line and instead of a president embodying the best of america, you’ve a president that embodies the very worst, never hides it, and broadcasts it around the world for all to see. As the man himself might say, it’s sad.

      Don’t get me wrong though. I know there’s are fine people in America, awesome people. But every day that guys in charge is another day of the best of america being dragged thought the mud by a narcissistic bigot who represents the very worst of you on every level.

      I’m sorry if this post comes off as insulting. As I said, I can understand why people voted for him. But I can’t understand people who still back the guy.

      And as far as world peace goes, I know I’m not the only one here in Europe who’s looking over at America with a sense of fear and distrust that i’ve never had before.

      Anyway, not trying to be insulting. Just trying to express how much more (un)safe modern america makes some of us feel.


      (Hi Tim, if i’ve gone too far or overstepped the mark please delete this post. I know this is a blog about football first and foremost).

    2. Let’s talk about democracy. My point is not that Russia is awesome. It’s that the US has no right to sit in judgment on any sovereign nation’s politics. Now if you only want to discredit something it is easy. How about the US’ democracy? Two parties, all politicians financed by corporations, about 50% voter involvement, electoral rolls manipulated, party nominations manipulated. People get to choose between two candidates, and the popular vote may not even count. The feedback mechanism from the public also doesn’t seem to work very well. And of course now, you have the American media saying their election was fixed. So why does this qualify as democracy? Only because you are told this is fine. And it is.. No other country has the right to tell you that you should switch political systems.

      The US doesn’t care whether Russia is a democracy or not, except that they could look to ‘fix’ stuff themselves then, which is what they did during Eltsin’s days, and what they do around the world.

      As for Oil. I disagree that oil is the number one reason they are in the middle east. (And that demand for oil through warfare is based on greed not need) The number one reason is hegemony. The real control, the real basis of ‘Pax’ Americana is the dollar’s status as reserve currency of the world. They must preserve it through whatever means. Alliances, threats, sanctions, war. That is why Russia is to kept down, that is why China must be contained, and why Iran and Libya and Syria are the ‘bad guys’. Because they, by virtue of their position on the map and their growing clout, threaten to challenge the dollar and the current system of trade. If Asia grows, then Europe follows. You’re already seeing some signs of that with Turkey moving towards Russia, and Germany going ahead with the North2 pipeline. This is a complete no no for American planners. It is also why I think war is coming. Especially because for the US war is business anyway. From the political view there is the Israel angle as well.

      I am not aware of the number of drone deaths. Which countries are they in? I believe that Hillary was a bigger hawk than Trump and was the choice of the war lobby. She wanted increased troops in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and Syria. Pushed the war in Libya, abusing the R2P UN provisions while at it. And was talking about enforcing no-fly zones over Syria, a sure fire way to go closer to war. Even though this was before Russia was invited by Syria I think.

      I dislike Trump. Always have. I still think his election at least delayed a hot war.

      1. Oh and the use of ISIS and other terrorists as extensions of foreign policy.

        Personally, I don’t blame Obama. I like him and I think he genuinely wanted peace. But American foreign policy is only partly under control of the White House and is easy enough to hijack when the aim is just more chaos.

  26. Here’s the starting line-up: Ospina, Bellerin, Mavropanus, Chambers, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Nelson, Iwobi, Aubemayang.

  27. Was Xhaka fixing his socks for that goal?? I am truly speechless at his incompetence.

    1. ha! someone tell him that it’s difficult to play soccer wearing roller skates. who wears under armour soccer cleats anyway?

  28. Regarding Shard (there’s a surprise) and Orson bigging up Trump… fellas, American power isn’t infinite. Sometimes, just sometimes, it isn’t all about the US. It shows a lack of full knowledge of the Korea/Asia/China dynamics to attribute to Obama alone a failure to rein in Kim (or his father… remember him) to Obama, and to attribute everything happening now to Trump.

    Mike Pompeo did some important legwork over Easter, and the Trump administration does deserve some credit, not least for the fact that it is happening on their watch. Im not going to be one of those lefties who bends over backwards to deny someone they don’t like credit fora foreign policy triumph, as Republicans did in talking down Obama’s leadership in bringing Bin Laden to justice.

    But the analysis of Trump’s part is crude, to say the least.

    Ok, time to settle back and watch the game. We’re behind, from a foul in midfield that Kevin Friend failed to call. The kids are looking okay.

  29. We are definitely having to play against twelve men. The ref will give us nothing. He’s ignored two reasonable penalty shouts and warned Xhaka, who he had already booked, for seemingly using his shoulder to control the ball, even though he didn’t give it as a foul.

    Halftime 1 _ 0. We are still in this game and can get something out of it, if the ref plays it fair.

  30. mavrapanos (unsure if that’s how you spell his name) already looks better than chambers and holding; looks as if he’s actually aware of what’s going on and anticipating instead of reacting.

    people have been praising xhaka’s performances lately. someone mentioned that it’s because arsenal haven’t played anyone yet. well, arsenal are playing man united today and xhaka has resumed the mean.

    maitland-niles is the reason arsenal let coquelin leave.

  31. H/T

    Take a good look at Bellerin for the goal. Ball-watching. Takes a couple of glances to see where Sanchez is, but for a couple of seconds, takes his eye of the Chilean. An undersized player winning a header at your back post is just bad, bad defending.

    Hector needs to tamp down teh celebrity nonsense and work hartder on his defensive positioning.

    Iwobi’s been excellent, Mikhi looks up for it. Nelson and AMN dont look over-awed in this company or game, but they’ve committed some crucial turnovers.

    Nice touch by Manchester United (and Fergie in particular) to honour Arsene.

  32. Mkhitaryan with the equaliser with an assist from guess who. Yes Granit Xhaka.!!!!

  33. Two positives to come out of that, Maitland-Niles and Konstantinos Mavropanos. Two players with a big future in front of them. I think the Greek kid and Chambers can make a very good central defence pairing. Whilst Maitland-Niles can effectively replace Wilshire.

  34. A promising group of young Arsenal players just didn’t have enough on the day to get the job done. They earn plaudits but no points. IF they develop and Arsenal invests in blah blah blah blah…

    Let’s get cynical!! Arsenal is drop dead cynical.

  35. Mavropanos looked good. So did Chambers. But we did show a huge weakness on crosses to the far post, which is where both goals came from, and the offside goal from Rashford.

    Still, a good performance in general. Today wasn’t really about the result for me. Disappointed though I am to lose. And by the way they all were on their knees after the goal, the players are too. Still, the big game is Thursday.

  36. I thought wenger holding pat rice was in response to rvp missing the shot… Gibbs’ block was after

  37. Obviously Chambers and Mavropanus won’t play together against Athetico Madrid, that will be Mustafi and Koscielny. But would it not be a good idea to play them as a pair against, certainly, Burnley at home and Huddersfield away. Leaving Koscielny and Mustafi the away game at Leicester in between.

  38. Talk about ruthlessly exploiting our weaknesses. 4 crosses with all the time and space in the world to the back post where we seem to be weak in the air. The first was a goal off the post, Mavropanos just about reached the second, the third was an offisde goal off the post and the fourth was the winner. 3 of those came in from the right side of our defence where Bellerin had little cover and was often slow to close down the winger.

    I have to say though that we looked like a well-balanced side in the middle. AMN and Xhaka is a good pairing, Xhaka looked much more comfortable without Ramsey. Likewise Mavropanos and Chambers looked solid together. If we could have tightened up those wide areas we would have looked pretty solid. Not bad for a bunch of kids.

    1. Much as I hate to praise anything that has the slightest connection with Manchester, I have to say that Ashley Young is one of the best left sided wing backs in the country. As you say Bellerin was given little cover and was largely left to cope with Young on his own, under the circumstances he didn’t do too badly. He does, however, not impress me with his defensive play and his forward contribution would be better if he went beyond his fullback and delivered crosses into the box, instead of turning inside too often.

      1. Show Young his left peg and he’s ineffective. It’s not just his chocolate leg… it’s his molten chocolate leg.

        If he plays there for England this world cup he’s going to get found out big time.

    2. Xhaka played well except for one, very big caveat. His free kick taking was awful. One, in a position of danger on the left side of their D (left foot inswinging) he whacked straight out of play near the far post.

      The other led directly the United’s winner… a godawful kick that hit the legs of the first rank defender, and from United launched a counter-attack. The first effort was repelled, but danger not cleared, goal.

      Plus, few players in the league make stupider fouls from which the ref is obliged to give him a card.

      But yes, he played well overall and looked much more sure of his play with AMN, who had a terrific game overall.

      1. Sorry but Xhaka did not have a good game. He was awful in the first half but was better in the second half and deserves praise for his work for the equalizer but that does not equate to him having a good game. He gave away the ball around our own 18 yard box 5 minutes after KO and kept Pogba onside from which we could have easily been down one goal in the opening minutes. For the goal, he slipped while making his now trademark slide-and-miss tackle, and then leisurely jogging back instead of bursting a gut to make up for his mistake and tracking Pogba. He is a defensive liability, a mistake a prone player who makes the occasional contribution in attack. He is not going to be any better than this and we need an upgrade on him if we are to even challenge for a top 4 position.

        1. Whatever Xhaka is, he is not a defensive midfielder. I like him. I like what he does bring, and I think he is improving in general, but his defensive awareness and recovery speed is really lacking.

        2. He had one of those games where he did some stupid stuff and also some excellent stuff. Defensively he was switched on for most of the game and offensively his passing was crisp and dynamic. Meanwhile he gave the ball away twice in the right back area with bad passes when we were in possession and under pressure, like NYCGunner says he played Sanchez (I think it was) onside… I thought overall however he was playing a more box-to-box role than usual and it obviously plays to his strengths much better. You can see the player in him.

          1. When taking stock of our central midfielders, namely Xhaka and Ramsey, as they are the two constants in that position when healthy, the question I ask myself is – do they contribute enough offensively to make up for the amount of mistakes they make defensively? For me, Ramsey does. Quite easily, even though he can be frustrating at times. Xhaka doesn’t – not by a long shot. Sure, if you pair him with some defensive elegant beast in midfield maybe you could perhaps cover up his weaknesses. But who is this player? Does he even exist and are we actually ever going to a buy a player like that? I think a simpler solution is selling Xhaka and buying a better well rounded central midfielder. There are more options in the market for a player like that than this mythical elegant beast we have all been dreaming of since Vieira left.

  39. As a citizen of the UK I don’t wish to stir the pot too much but it seems impossible to find anyone at all who has a good word to say for Donald Trump. Yet 62,979,636 US citizens voted for him. Have they all changed their minds?

    1. Some of them have. His approval rate barely hits 40%. It was a bit of a hysteria and coupled with the Clinton scandals led to that outcome. A bit like Brexit.

    2. Actually I do have something good to say about Donald Trump.

      I think he actually gets things done. For better or worse.

      Then again I am not from the US. Though I have to say his policies have affected my income in a negative way from where I come from.

  40. I think his loyal support is still loyal.

    For me he’s an abomination of a human being and should never have been let anywhere near the presidency, but at least the fact that he’s there strips away a lot of the facade that lets people pretend they live in a decent democracy led by decent people.

    And sometimes one of the wrenches he flings around from his bottomless box of wrenches (only the very best wrenches) gets stuck in the gears of something that needed to get broke.

    For example (recognizing that I am in a minority on this one) the decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a good move. I lived in Palestine for 3 years. Those guys have been suffering cruel and inhuman treatment under military occpuation for 70 years, and the whole world is perfectly happy for that arrangement to continue indefinitely. Meanwhile everyone knows that a 2 state solution will include some kind of joint capital status for Jerusalem.
    Anything that shifts the conversation forwards is useful.

    1. This! Very well put.

      I also agree, I think, with Jerusalem being recognised as the capital. It’s funny because Trump probably did it to satisfy the more hardcore Israelis. But it has also unified the Palestine and Arab response and brings a ‘solution’ closer. It will cause more upheavals in the short term, but I agree it is a step forward.

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