Same old Jose, always bleating

I’m busy researching the 2004/05 season and the rapid change from the Arsenal Invincibles in 2003/04 to Chelsea’s team that won the League with 95 points and just one loss. I guess I had forgotten most of that 04/05 season and especially what transpired between Mourinho and Wenger. I knew about the famous “voyeur” quote by Jose and Wenger’s retort about giving success to stupid people but apparently the feud was much more heated than I remembered with Mourinho going so far as to say that Arsenal cheated.

He also regularly complained about the officials and was apparently particularly aggrieved when his side drew 2-2 at Highbury and Arsenal took a quick free kick (and scored) before Petr Cech had the wall set. He basically accused referee Mark Halsey of not knowing the laws of the game or not sticking to them.

It got so bad that Peter Kenyon (Chelsea director) called two Arsenal directors to offer some kind of olive branch (probably one covered in piss).

I guess I’ve filled my mind with so many other memories during the 13+ years since all that happened that I pushed a lot of that stuff clean out of my mind! I have to find the original quotes from Jose, and Wenger’s responses. It looks like the FA even got involved. This is probably mostly about Ashley Cole but I want to have a deeper look.

I’m also really curious how the fans and the League viewed Chelsea at the time. Right now what I see is this kind of funny (in retrospect) critique of Chelsea playing ugly football under Jose. That was in his first season there, when they were still winning. But I also discovered that Jose was well known before he took the Chelsea job for playing ugly football. I don’t know why I thought different but it looks like he’s always been a checkbook Tony Pulis. Which is funny because I feel he would have had a similar career to Pulis had it not been for his Champions League victory with Porto.

Anyway, this isn’t a Mourinho football blog. This whole thing is funny because his entire professional life I think has been spent saying “yeah but, I win things” and then holding up some fingers to show what a winner he is. Anyway, this is just a blurb or as we used to say in the old days “a blog”, I’ve got to get moving.

Tomorrow I’ll put up a preview of Nuke v. Arsenal over on The Arsenal Review.

Football is back!



  1. My hate for Chelsea used to run deep and pure. One of the first games I remember watching as a newly minted Arsenal fan was the League Cup final when a Wengerian fairy tale was flipped on its head by Chelsea’s thuggery and expensive imports. I wonder how Theo Walcott’s career turns out if he leaves that game as a match winner? Maybe there is a parallel universe where he is so confident on the back of that win, he goes on to have an impact at the World Cup and upon his return, joins Henry and a healthy Van Persie as the most devastating attacking trio in the world. Yeah, ok, I’m dreaming. But I think we all had that dream when he scored first in that game against Chelsea.

    Chelsea always represented a dark thundercloud in my consciousness. Their rise to prominence was perfectly timed to coincide with that most fragile of transition periods at Arsenal when we needed some outside help to stay competitive. We were losing too much talent to age and attrition and the youngsters weren’t ready yet. Chelsea were the storm that inevitably rained on my parade every time we gained a little momentum, a little belief, they were there to beat down on us. I believed in those young players and I wanted so badly for them to beat Chelsea. I think I still carry a sense of bitterness about the brutal realities in sport at the time that prevented my team, the one that was built in what I viewed as the proper way and who tried to play proper football, by one that was so obviously assembled by foul play and resorted to foul play to win, despite their talent. One of my best football memories therefore is the somewhat farcical 5-3 win at their place when Walcott scored and Terry watched from the ground.

    They’ve been a lot more tolerable since Mourinho decamped the first time and I particularly enjoyed the manner of his ignominious second departure, but let’s be real: I still hate Chelsea.

    Somehow, Man United never inspired the same level of hatred in me despite similar tactics both on and off the pitch at the time. They weren’t some Johnny-come-lately club owned by shady Russian petrol companies, they had enviable continuity in their playing and coaching staff, more of a commitment to developing their own players and more of a commitment to attacking football. There were some unforgivable moments of course: the Rooney dive, the Neville tandem on Reyes, but in general we gave as good as we got in those days (Keown vs. Ruud anyone?) and while the teams were evenly matched that was OK. They became another club who beat down on Arsene’s increasingly unrealistic insistence on trying to outscore teams in these big games with players of gradually decreasing competence. But they were never Chelsea. Nobody can ever be as bad as Chelsea.

  2. To Doc’s point. I dislike United far more than I ever will Chelsea. United and Fergie were the team that reacted most viscerally to Wenger’s arrival and upsetting of the order they felt entitled to sit at the top of, and they will always stand proudly atop my sh!tlist. Chelsea are rather far down (behind Spurs, Stoke and City), and I’ll come to that in a moment.

    For much of the latter Wengerian period United completely outplayed us (see Ronaldo running past Denilson as if he wasnt there), but when we were much better and they couldn’t, they tried to kick us into submission. Look at how talentless oiks like Phil Neville abused Jose Antonio Reyes and was allowed to get away with it by refs. To that point, a video just appeared on my YouTube list.. the worst revenge fouls of all time. Want something fun to do? Watch Roy Keane maiming Alf Inge Haaland for life. And then tell me again why Chelsea were worse than Fergie’s men? Vieira is often compared to Keane for competitiveness, but while Pat was competitive and did commit a lot of fouls, you would never call him a semi-criminal thug, as you would Roy Keane.

    Chelsea? Sure they were run and financed by one of Putin’s oligarch buddies, who sits on the same axis of corruption as Putin and Donald Trump. And yes Mourinho’s pursuit and acquisition of Ashley Cole, the best left back of the modern EPL era, showed how toothless the FA was in the face of serious rule-breaking. But they’re not that free-spending club anymore, havent been for years. City is the new Chelsea, with equally dubious source of funds, and an equal disdain for financial fair play. But, you know, Pep is God, so…

    And crucially, they didn’t have a Roy Keane, one of the most disagreeable pricks ever to have laced up football boots.

    Mourinho? Done. A great coach once without question (we dont hold unlimited spending power against Pep as much), but the returns have been diminishing fora long, long time now. His CL win Porto was an outstanding achievement, but that looking like an era ago.

    1. I think you forget to mention that Haaland incident was revenge rather than straight up thuggery. Haaland dirty tackled Keane which put him out for months and could’ve ended his career. Roy just returned the favour when he came back from injury. Roy was a proper hard man but not as dirty and cynical as Joey Bartons of this world.

      1. Nonsense.

        I said straight up “the worst revenge fouls of all time.”

        I think you seriously gloss over the single worst piece of football thuggery ever seen in the premier league. Honestly, Keane should have been arrested by police and prosecuted. It was straight up violent assault and battery.

      2. I think you’ll find Keane actually injured himself trying to tackle Haaland, and his revenge was all about Haaland giving him some verbals while he lay injured.

  3. Chelski and Jose a million times worse than Jose and Man United. And they did play ugly, boring, cynical football right from the start. And his Porto team were ugly and negative and got extremely lucky, both in the UEFA Cup final against O’Neil’s Celtic (people forget about this) and in the Champs League run in 04, when they should have been knocked out by Man United but for a dodgy call against Scholes. Ugly, ugly, ugly.
    He was a cancer on football from the start.

    1. You need luck in sport, my dude. God know that United totally outplayed us in the 05 FA Cup final. A game we won.

      So, pass me with the “should have beaten” and the Scholes incident against Porto. Let’s have some nuance, and not go all or nothing on the guy.

      Hey, to each his own villain. That’s ok. Some of us have longer memories.

      1. of course luck crops up a lot as a factor in sport. but it’s also true that some trophy-winning sides are luckier than others. it’s not their fault, but it puts things in context.

        as to “not going all or nothing” on Jose: is that a joke? he’s a thoroughly unlikeable character, both personally and in footballing terms.

        1. And Keane is a disagreeable pr*ck, sure, but in a cartoonish kinda way. like he’s such a massive grouch to everybody, all the time, that you just have to roll your eyes and laugh. it’s entertaining. the Haaland thing is utterly indefensible. but other than that incident, for most of his career he was a really, really good footballer, who knew how to “mix it up” in a very physical league, but was not really close to the biggest thugs of his era.

          John Terry will always be a much bigger pr*ck. And Ashley Cole, for that matter.

          1. Neither John Terry nor Ashley Cole (really?) has seriously, physically maimed anyone. John Terry slept with his teammate’s wife, which gives new meaning to “bigger pr*ck” , I suppose, but by what stretch of the imagination is he worse than someone who goes out there to break a man’s leg?

          2. ok, so, just to be clear Claude: are you basing your entire argument on that one incident with Haaland, or not?

            If that’s your whole argument, then fine, I just think (a) it’s hard to justify basing one’s entire judgment of a person’s life and character on a SINGLE, momentary incident (as awful as the Haaland thing admittedly was), and (b) if I compare everything on and off the pitch I know about Keane vs everything I know about Terry/Cashley, there’s no comparison that the latter two are more unlikeable.

            But hey, that’s just me. It’s obviously subjective, so silly for us to argue about it too much.

          3. Keane was a thug. End of story. What he did to Haaland should have been criminally prosecuted, and yes, is a very big deal. So yes, I am summing him up on that.

            If I set out to criminally injure someone tomorrow, it should tell you a lot about my character, and it’s going to sum me up in the eyes of many, whether I like it or not. Taylor didnt set out to break Eduardo’s leg, but I dont wnat to hear the argument that “he’s not that kind of lad.” Keane set out to maim a fellow professional.

            But it’s kind of pointless and puzzling your going to town on this, to be honest. What’s the point your getting deep in the weeds about whether Terry was worse than Keane?

            And Ashley Cole in that company? Ashley Cole? Why?

          4. “But it’s kind of pointless and puzzling your going to town on this, to be honest. What’s the point your getting deep in the weeds about whether Terry was worse than Keane?”

            There’s a phrase about pots and kettles I’m grasping for here, that might be applicable…

            As for Ashley Cole, have you read *anything* about his, ahem, off field “behavior”?

  4. Personally, I have never felt the kind of hatred towards ANYBODY like I used to for Fergie and United. Well.. before Trump came into the picture anyway. But footballistically, it was Fergie and United. I think it depends on when you became a fan mostly. Fergie’s men used downright thuggish tactics to try and beat us. Mourinho and other managers simply copied his tactics. Also, I felt that between Wenger and Fergie it was almost personal. Jose was just being Jose and TRIED to get personal but Wenger mostly dismissed him as one would try to swat away an annoying gnat.

    1. Agree. And by happy coincidence, Mourinho is at United. Win/win 🙂 Mind you, in my case, it’s hardly “hate’, as such. Not even for Spurs. I can’t bring myself to be that tribal. However I mostly root against ALL of the big EPL teams in their games against other teams. All. Shoot me.

      1. Fergie was/is a bully AND has class–as evidenced by the fact that he and Wenger have become friends the last few years (can you see a classy guy like Arsene *ever* really becoming friendly with Jose?). He was a hyper competitive alpha male obsessed with winning and used to getting his own way. But I always felt that beneath that rough exterior lies a real human being with a heart, someone who genuinely cared about his players, had some modicum of integrity, etc etc. And his teams *mostly* played good football. Jose, not so much.

        1. Yeah I think a big part of the friendliness from Fergie was down to him realizing in Wenger’s latter years that we weren’t a challenger any more. Actually that made me hate him even more. If Jose had the character to extend an olive branch to Wenger, I can guarantee you he would be a gentleman about it.

          Yes United played good football. With everyone except for Arsenal. That made me madder because I knew they actually could have played fairer if they wanted to. But no – they came out on the field ready to physically hurt us which became a blue print for other teams. Jose doesn’t know how to play any other way as you said, so it wasn’t like he reserved his “specialness” for us.

          Anyways, water under the bridge. I have nothing but respect for the old goat.

          Just kidding.

        2. As much as I hated Ferguson, because he came off like a bully, as time passes I prefer to direct that anger at the league and the refs..who let him/his team get away with things that should have never been allowed.

          Whether it was bullying and manipulating referees, getting away with fouls, Fergie Time, or refusing to do contractually obliged interviews when he get the hump……it was up to the league and the refs to reign him in and condemn the dirty tactics.

          Instead they basically allowed him/the team to become bigger than the game, to the extent that refs have openly talked about how worried they were about p*ssing him off and the abuse and demotions that could result from that.

          As much as I don’t like the guy, I’m far more angry at the league and the refs who let him and his team get away with murder, than I am with him and his team for taking advantage of that.

          1. Good point and not just the officials, I also really disliked the blatant favoritism in the media. Thing is, Fergie bullied officials and journalists too. He had them wrapped around his fat little fingers. It seemed to me the underlying message was “we are England’s team and you better keep my players happy”.

          2. yeah, all fair points.

            I just think there were only a handful of games against Arsenal where United tried truly to kicked us off the pitch (really it was like once or twice in very high profile games, but that’s enough to spawn a legend, apparently). other times over that era (I’m thinking 1996 to 2005) United were very physical against us, but they also tried to play football. sometimes they got the better of us, sometimes they didn’t. because the games were so close in that era, it would often be the case that the game was settled by one bad mistake or moment of genius, or one bad ref error. sometimes the team who had played the better football lost. and in any event, BOTH teams played very, very physically.

            So this myth that’s developed in the minds of Arsenal fans–that United won titles despite being not as good, in virtue of kicking Arsenal ruthlessly from pillar to post for years with complete impunity–is completely overblown and out of touch with reality.

            Both teams were great. Both teams at times played on the edge of the rules physically speaking. Other than the 2003 title, which Arsenal probably deserved to win, and the 2005 FA Cup, which United probably deserved to win, I can’t think of any trophies that went to the “wrong” team, and even in those years, the losers had only themselves to blame, not the refs, or the corrupt “system,” or dastardly ol’ Fergie and his thuggish tactics.

            This is how I remember it, anyway.

  5. To me, it wasn’t the physical part of fergie’s man utd that annoyed me the most. It was the disgusting attitude of influencing referees that made me mad..all the time!.. Howard freagin Webb was a cůňţ! Still’s just that his cúńțřý no longer happens on the pitch!!

  6. I think it’s summed up by the fact that most of us were happier that Chelsea won the FA cup instead of Man U last season and this is called the Mourinho Effect.

    1. Mourinho has been public enemy number one for Arsenal fans for the last decade or so. No denying that.

  7. All I know is I wanted ManU to win the league in 2008 ahead of Chelsea once we’d been conned out of it, only for ManU to win via referee in the final game. Chelsea got the money just as we were tightening our belts and modernising. ManU got the referees to protect their brand. I hate both because both destroyed the spirit of football as it was. They cheapened the game. ManU actually more so and it was no surprise when the brandwagon took Mourinho on board bringing an end to their pretense of ethics that Ferguson was allowed to maintain.

    Mourinho thankfully, does not have the same clout. Not anymore. And for that as much as anything, I suppose we should thank Pep who has done so much more with the money that it shows up Jose for what he is. And I suppose we should thank Cruyff for his choice too.

    We’d have won in 2005 too if Game 50 hadn’t happened. We were unstoppable (fairly) at the time and everyone knew it. You just had to see the fear in ManU fans’ eyes to know that they didn’t believe they could beat us.

    Game 50, and the end of the 2007/08 season count as the biggest what ifs in the story of our recent history. (The Leicester season wouldn’t have changed the story much even if we’d won because by then the narrative was set)

  8. Always Fergies’ United.

    Big money in football never bothered me that much, whether it came from a Russian oligarch or a Sheikh.

    Having referees in your back pocket is always far more corrupt and damaging to the game than being able to outspend your opponents even with money gained from dubious sources.

    The fact Ferguson had referees’ personal phone numbers and spoke directly to some of them discussing players and games should be enough for a huge asterisk to be placed next to the list of his PL achievements.

    United did play a free flowing attacking football under Ferguson that was much more easy on the eye than the risk averse Mourinho style, but that counts for little in my book considering that they had build their global brand partially ( at least) by tilting the game with the help of the likes of Mike Riley.

    1. “The fact Ferguson had referees’ personal phone numbers and spoke directly to some of them discussing players and games should be enough for a huge asterisk to be placed next to the list of his PL achievements.”

      Please. That’s ridiculous sour grapes. The man didn’t win all those trophies because he had refs cheat for him. For context: Bill Belichick is WAY more of a blatant cheater, and it would STILL be ridiculous to imply that his status as one of the greatest American football coaches of all time is put in doubt due to the incidents in which he bent/broke the rules.

      Fergie was a ridiculous winner, period. This isn’t old school Serie A. He didn’t win because he had Riley or anyone else in his “pocket”. He was a bully who pushed people to do what he wanted, and sometimes those in authority weren’t as strong as they should be in standing up to him. But that was never the difference between having a massive trophy cabinet stuffed with trophies and not. Unless you have evidence there were actual bribes/blackmail etc going on, that’s just libelous.

      1. Have to agree with that. I do think Fergie shamelessly tried to influence referees and many of them were probably influenced to some degree by him, but it’s a whole different level to suggest there was outright collusion between the two. It was definitely not a good look for him or the league but obviously the PL didn’t suffer as a product. That leads to a whole different line of inquiry about what we as fans say we value on a moral level and what we consider great entertainment. Clearly, there is a disconnect there or the PL would not be the most watched league worldwide.

      2. Calm yourself down, no one is saying he wasn’t a great manager and a serial winner, but to claim he just bullied referees into doing what he wanted them to do and nothing else, is to ignore the fact that the PGMO applied a different set of rules when punishing SAF for his outbursts towards refs and officials who were deemed to make mistakes against his United wouldn’t return for an OT game for months ,or even in some cases, for the rest of the season.
        Compare that to how Wenger was treated by the PGMO and you’ll have the idea as to what I meant there.
        Btw, who gives a $hit about Bill Belichek and the NFL?
        We were discussing Wenger v Mou v Ferguson.

        1. Also, there’s no sour grapes here at all.
          I gave Ferguson plenty of kudos over the years for reinventing himself to stay on top.
          Being ruthless with players, getting new ideas by way of hiring new blood for no: two on his staff. Things Wenger failed miserably at btw.

          1. Ferguson was a great coach at England’s biggest (or richest) club with great players. A serial winner, who wouldn’t have won as much as he did were it not for the refs. This is especially true in the later years once Chelsea got on the scene. For once Tom, we agree 🙂

        2. “Btw, who gives a $hit about Bill Belichek and the NFL?”

          It’s called an analogy, dude. do I need to explain how those work?

    2. I fully agree Tom, but look, this debate proves that this is a highly subjective thing, and we’re never all going to see it the same way. So let’s not get our pants twisted over this.

      About Fergie, let’s put it this way. The touchline assistant ref often found 6 minutes added time when they were losing, and a maximum of 2 when they were winning 😀

      Fergie had a ferocious touchline presence, and intimidated the hell out of everyone. Everyone, that is, except pre-2006 Wenger. The professor flummoxed, and outplayed him. He hatde him, until much later, with Wenger’s decline. He could afford to develop feelings for him then. It may have started with the 8 -2, when even Fergie looked visibly embarrassed by the spectacle.

      Wiltord winning us the title at Old Trafford stung him really hard. He banned the BBC — which paid the FA hundreds of millions for rights in that period — for having the temerity to ask questions which didnt amount to kissing his rather large rear. The FA cowered in the face of his power. Inexcusable.

      Fergie got fawning treatment from a press which glossed over his team’s behaviour. There was a popular theme in the press when we had the beating of United — Arsene Wenger’s Xth red card. No context, no metrics, no comparisons… just Arsene Wenger’s Xth red card.

      And they segued smoothly from saying we were too rough, to too soft. And all the while, old tomato face got a free ride. Does anyone believe that Arsene Wenger deserved to be banished from the touchline by Mike Dean for kicking HIS OWN water bottle at Old Trafford? Or that Dean would have done that to Fergie at Highbury?

      These are not inconsequential things in our shared history with United. Time smoothens very man’s rough edges, and I kind of like Fergie now, now that he’s left the game. But United will always be my bogey team. Chelsea emerged when our powers were on the wane, and in truth, the battle for top dog no longer involved us. We couldnt beat them for a decade. It wasn’t a rivalry. Like I said, these things are subjective. And some of them pre-date Jose. And I suppose, Tom, that you and I are longer in the tooth than most 🙂

      1. “agree Tom, but look, this debate proves that this is a highly subjective thing, and we’re never all going to see it the same way. So let’s not get our pants twisted over this.”

        Would it help if I told you I’m not wearing any pants? 🙂

      2. This comment. It made me angrier with each sentence as they brought back memories from a time when I took things a lot more personally in football. But I think the key thing for me, which you mentioned, was the rivalry. That’s what amplified everything. By the time Chelsea was fully in the picture, we were mostly out of it.

        1. This fuckery, see, makes me mad even all these years later. Beating United at OT was hard enough. Frustration at a last minute equaliser being ruled out saw him kick a water bottle. Look at Lee Probert and Mike Dean get huffy over a nothing incident, and tell me that Arsenal weren’t playing the match officials as well. And to add insult to injury, BBC analysts, except Lee Dixon, thought it was a hoot.

        2. This nonsense, see, makes me mad all over again even all these years later. Beating United at OT was hard enough. Frustration at a last minute equaliser being ruled out saw him kick a water bottle. Look at Lee Probert and Mike Dean get huffy over a nothing incident, and tell me that Arsenal weren’t playing the match officials as well. And to add insult to injury, BBC analysts, except Lee Dixon, thought it was a hoot.

        3. Last link, I promise, NYT (Tim’s not fond of them, so apologies)

          We often seemed to be playing against the refs at Old Trafford. But boy, what a fine bunch of hard bastards we had 😀 Loved that team. Could go toe to toe with anyone. Graeme Souness said that team could play roughhouse if that’s what the opposition served up, or we could play them off the park with beautiful ball. The Arsene and Fergie responses at the end were interesting.

  9. So Spurs are playing Liverpool, and I don’t want a Liverpool win, as they’ll be well away from the pack. This one’s tough.

    1. Not Spurs.

      We can’t match Liverpool’s class right now, so there’s no point in looking at what they’re doing until we sort ourselves out. Which we absolutely will, or at least I choose to believe so, based on Emery’s record to this point.

      When that happens and the team starts to come together, particularly defensively and in our transition game, we will start to put the League on notice.

      Never Spurs, never Man U.

  10. I fully expect Liverpool to take the reins and never let go in this match, despite playing away. They are “RED” hot right now. But they also play seven matches in the next three weeks, so it will be interesting to see what kind of shape they’re in after this run. If we manage to keep an upward trajectory through this period, I will like our chances against them in the first week of November.

  11. And watch Watford reamin unbeaten and turn over Mourinho this weekend. Elton is a happy camper right now and, Troy Deeney notwithstanding, I am happy for Captain Fantastic.

    “I can bitch, I can bitch ’cause I’m better than you
    It’s the way that I move, the things that I do oh, oh, oh”
    – Bernie Taupin

  12. And let’s enjoy Watford continuing their unbeaten run (Tory Deeney notwithstanding) by turning over Man U and piling even more pressure on The Not So Special One. Elton is a happy camper right now and I am happy for the one and only Captain Fantastic,

    “I can b$%ch, I can bi32h ’cause I’m better than you
    It’s the way that I move, the things that I do oh, oh, oh”
    – Bernie Taupin/Elton John

  13. Better second half than first. Well taken free kick by Xhaka. Ozil had a bit of luck with his goal. It was Xhaka’s combination play and cutback that created the chance, so the Swiss had a a hand in both goals. Goal notwithstanding, Ozil doesn’t look totally at home in Emery’s system, and neither does Ramsey and Aubameyang to an extent.

    Guendouzi a mite unlucky to be subbed at h/t, but Xhaka did (and generally does) look liberated when he has Torreira sitting and doing the dirty work. Still, he can look defensively suspect, almost gifting Newcastle goal as he leisurely took an unnecessary touch in the box. Sometimes I dont know where that guy’s head is at in defensive situations, but he was impressive offensively, and made the difference today.

    It was clear that Newcastle, late on, were attacking the airspace between Mustafi and Bellerin. That’s a weak point for Arsenal, and that’s where the goal came from, and another almost did. Sokratis solid, Monreal could have done better to stop the cross into the box for the goal. Welbeck could have killed it on the breakaway by holding it up instead of taking a 1% shot, but you know… Welbeck.

  14. Nice win today. Granit Xhaka showed his worth with a really nice all around performance and the crucial opening goal from a direct free kick, I believe his first for the club. Such performances will justify Emery’s faith in him. It’s good to see him adding new strings to his bow. I always feel like that’s a sign of a player who is not content with what he has and strives to be better. Overall from an attacking sense it was a bit of a strange one in that we had one strong spell in the game and that was enough to salt it away, while for most of the game the attacking play was sub-par, for different reasons. In the first half, I felt Newcastle pressed the ball very well and Arsenal could not pick up their heads and find each other. The passing was too conservative as well, always going safety first, and Aubameyang in particular seemed to be short on confidence.

    The defending was improved compared to prior weeks (a low bar) and would’ve deserved higher praise if not for the two late headed chances. Mustafi had a nightmare reading the flight of the ball in this game. He got under it for both of those late crosses that resulted in headers at the far post, and seemed to move towards the ball for the first one such that if he hadn’t done so he would’ve been in position to defend it. There was also that painfully awkward moment in the first half when he completely missed a high looper that allowed ‘castle in. Strangely for a player so obviously good at getting his head on to corners, he has a really hard time of it from open play. It’s weird and I wonder if anyone here has experience playing CB might comment on this disconnect. Is it fixable?

    Torreira changed the game and it was his introduction that was the catalyst for an improved attacking performance in the second half. It was his incisive forward shovel pass to Aubameyang that set up the spot for Xhaka’s free kick, and his forward prompting, coupled by a bit of a collapse in Newcastle’s confidence and energy levels thereafter allowed us to control the flow of the game completely in that half. For a such an outstanding defensive player, his use of the ball is also first rate. We are lucky to have him.

    1. Xhaka was very good overall, and yet I didn’t think Guendouzi did much wrong in that first half and was a bit unlucky to make way. I think it’s more a matter of Torreira plus + one other right now, as Xhaka-Guen is just too similar and we need someone in there scurrying around making tackles and interceptions and speeding up play with a bit of dribbling.

      So basically it’s a good problem to have: start Torreira-Xhaka (for seniority’s sake, if for no other reason), with Guendouzi and the still-quite-decent Elneny waiting as backups. Right now that’s the easiest area of the field to fix for us, which is ironic given how bad we’ve been at CM over the last few years. The arrivals of LT and MG have been huge.

      1. Maybe it was planned that way all along due to fitness concerns about LT? Regardless, it’s lovely when we can make changes not out of desperation or to pull someone out of the fire but because we have able and willing alternatives who can change the thrust of the game.

        1. Agree with Doc on all points. Hector blocked several crosses today, and seemed better attuned to closing down his flank threat, which represented a noticeable improvement on the earlier games. Ironically it was Monreal who did not deal with his flank threat that well, and that led to the goal. The space between Hector and Mustifi was breached because Mustafi didnt seem that well placed or confident to frontally attack the cross. He should not have allowed the ball to travel that far. Either that, or the cross was pinpoint. That said, neither he nor Hector seemed that assured aerially/defensively today, which is a bit of a surprise because Mustafi is a real handful in the opposition box. Hector’s improvement arc is encouraging, and hopefully it extends to his aerial/defensive play. Was happy with Sokratis’ play. Cech was better too, helped by the defenders ferrying it quickly forward, rather than playing around.

  15. Can we for the love of God put Lichtsteiner in at RB. The incumbent RB left too much space for Newcastle’s attacks in the first half but a poor Newcastle failed to punish us. In the second half, he watches Joselu peel off Mustafi for a free header when he makes the same mistake on the Clark goal from the exact same spot only he is even further away from the attacker. No clean sheet, thank you Hector ‘Givenchy’ Bellerin.
    Once again on comes, Torreira and up goes Arsenal’s speed of play and Newcastle wilt until the end. Torreira did have a ‘Xhaka’ type give away but he recovered to pressure the ball and avoid a scoring chance.
    Our passing today was not particularly sharp for some reason.
    Overall we’re beating the teams we need to beat on the road and we are movin’ on up. to where we are tied with England’s WC team Spits

    1. I thought it was on Mustafi to cover those spaces, not Hector, particularly the first one. Regardless, it looks to me like Hector’s play is gradually improving in a defensive sense. Today he got his foot on several crosses from his own flank and covered his assignments on corners generally well. One back post clearing header stands out in my mind on a play that was eventually whistled off but he was not to know that. Overall, he did his part in a defensive display that saw us concede two shots on target, both in the last two minutes. For this bunch and for Hector, that’s a big step forward.

  16. Why is Torreira not starting and still coming off the bench? As Doc pointed out, we were a different (better) side in the 2nd half.

    We are slowly improving however, and that is positive. 5 matches on, we have now won more than we have lost, We have won back-to-back away matches which we failed to do last year and Xhaka had a great game, finally.

    Defending remains an afterthought and it will be a long while yet, I think, before we see a clean sheet from this team. Cech looked like he was a having an unanesthethized root canal for most of 90 minutes. Props to him for a couple of great saves, though. Kept us in it.

Comments are closed.

Related articles