The dam broke

I was listening to the Guardian football weekly and they were talking about how great it was that Arsenal supporters are back to having fun and singing about how “we got our Arsenal back”. I agree with them on the first point. There does seem to be a lightened mood among the supporters that I follow and interact with.

The songs about getting our Arsenal back are meant to be tongue in cheek and most supporters are being reserved about going “all in” on this team. It’s not the expected goals numbers that are holding us back, it’s the expected failures.

But it is different and it is fun and that’s ultimately what we want from our club (plus trophies). Fans are singing praises for Iwobi, who last year was considered “crap”, and I’ve heard more new Arsenal songs after every match than I’ve heard in a long time.

If you’ve been following me for any amount of time you know that I’m a huge fan of Arsene Wenger. What he did for this club has already been enumerated many times but could stand a brief re-telling:

  • Three Premier League titles
  • The Invincibles
  • Winning the League at Old Trafford
  • Winning the League at White Hart Lame
  • 229* Thierry Henry Goals
  • 22 years at the club
  • 20 years in the Champions League
  • 7 FA Cups (record)
  • Modernized London Colney training facility
  • The new stadium
  • Hundreds of erudite quotes on the meaning of life, the universe and everything

I love Arsene Wenger and always will. Selfishly, I don’t know if I want him to manage another club. He’s spoken at length about his addiction to management and the toll that addiction took on his personal life. I want him to live somewhere quiet and write books about football and philosophy but I don’t think he will do that and I wish him the best of luck in his next management job.

The problem at Arsenal was that toward the end things had grown stagnant. It took 20 years before teams started to challenge Wenger’s system. There were a few managers who had figured it out earlier (SAF and Mou) but for the most part, Wenger was able to stay ahead of the vast majority of managers until the final two to three years. But those last three years were filled with cynicism and quite a bit of anger.

So, it feels like the dam has broken. Emery is different from Wenger (at the very least in the squad rotation, player changes in a match, and in the way that he gives specific instructions) and the Arsenal supporters are simply celebrating the change. Obviously there will be some element of Arsenal that is anti-Wenger but when (if) he returns I guarantee a warm reception.

Wenger often compared management to a love story and if we stick to that analogy we are just dating Emery. It’s only been a few months! We are in the first few dates phase: emotions are heightened, their jokes are funnier than they really are, their good qualities better, their bad qualities ignored. We are bonding with Emery. There’s no guarantee that it will last but this is one of the fun bits, the early love phase.


*I know what the “official” record books say but you can’t tell me that Scott Dann “own goal” wasn’t on target. That was an Henry goal, damnit.


  1. Winning 12 games in a row certainly makes it better. It did not look that good after 2 games.

    If Wenger must coach, let it be the Iranian Women’s National Team or schoolchildren somewhere.

  2. Wenger back in the PL would be most interesting and you just know that the first wave of managerial sackings is just around the corner.

    Judging by the facial expression of Fulham owner, Shahid Khan, watching his club lose again at home, Slavisa Jokanovic might be the first casualty.

    Wenger back in London , now there’s a headline that would create a stir.

  3. If he intends to return to club management, I’d like to see him take over at a really big club, like PSG or Real Madrid. Anywhere else, and I think his DJ Jazzy Jeff coaching gets exposed once again.

    1. Sure, but these two clubs stand for everything Wenger once was against and it would represent some sort of betrayal of values.

      Besides, where else would his DJ Jazzy Jeff coaching style be more tolerable than at a club like Fulham who have the league’s worst goal difference and aren’t great to watch going forward either.

      1. I think Bun is referring to Wenger’s self expression first style of coaching here.
        At least that’s how I understood his comment.

        1. Yup. Also, Wenger has always been expressly flattered by interest from Real and PSG. I don’t think he’d turn them down.

  4. I don’t know how it happens but Arsene Wenger, Germany manager, would make me inordinately happy

  5. Wenger busted the dam of Old School English Football when he arrived and the river flowed with the most entertaining side the Premier league has ever seen, apologies to the current Manchester City side. But then Wenger seemed to build another dam of his own that choked that flow for Arsenal in his last years in the job.

    Do we have another WW2 style “dam buster” in Emery? 11 games in a row is a real statement. We haven’t had a run close to this since 2007-2008. That year we let Henry go to Barcelona, finished 3rd in the League and made the QF in the CL.

    This season, we remain demoted to the European minor league and may lose Ramsey and Welbeck.

    Will things be different this season and will that dam break? 10 years later and I’d be very happy for another 3rd place finish.

  6. Dating Emery would seem much better than the otherwise one night stand with Arteta preferred by many at the time.!

    AFC should have parted ways with Wenger when he divorced his wife. Timing about right at hindsight.

  7. All he needed to do is to stay on his feet and keep the attacker in front.
    Why dive in?
    So so stupid.

  8. Halftime. Deserved lead by Palace.

    Mustafi’s correctly going to take a lot of stick, but actually the defence is overworked. The problem is our forwards. Nothing’s sticking, no one’s holding it up. It all looks so disjointed. Ozil’s having a stroll, and this is one of those instances in which you can clearly see why Emery favours a “10 press.” Looks like he’s on the beach. Iwobi’s going to get subbed if he keeps playing line this (King Wele?), and neither Auba or Laca can get in the game.

    Torreira our best player. Guendouzi has turned it over under pressure a couple of times, but he and Torreira have shown an appetite for the tackle. Xhaka, apart from booting it out of play when passing to Auba, has played well.

    Another second half surge? We cant keep starting so listlessly.

    1. Yup.
      Here’s an idea for Emery.
      Drug the players lightly before the game and when they come to tell them its the beginning of the second half and we are down a goal.

  9. Smash and grab point by Arsenal.

    Mustafi and Xhaka making challenges in a penalty box carry a major pucker factor.
    Can’t think of two other players on any team more ill equipped to sensible defending than theses two.

        1. I had a quibble with the denominator, but have since regretted it because it was too nitpicky as per below.

    1. Yeah agree. And it was only a matter of time before their errors would prove costly but the whole team was off today. The forwards are just as much to blame for the goals we conceded. Xhaka should never have found himself one on one vs. Saha in the penalty box.

      1. Emery made that point too in the post-game presser. It was an exceptionally bad decision from Lacazette to try that pass in that situation but instead we are talking about how much Xhaka can’t defend (and once again, it’s true! He can’t!).

        I think one of the reasons I jumped on this comment is because I think the whole Mustafi and Xhaka can’t tackle trope is just such lazy analysis. Yes, it’s true. But there is so much more to pick apart than that, most importantly the scenarios that led up them being forced out of their comfort zone. We always applaud coaches who can put their players in a position that helps them succeed. If you put a player out of his comfort zone and he concedes a goal, blaming that player for being S*t is easy and fun in a way especially if you’re a few pints in or need to release some frustration, but in this age of frame by frame hyper-analysis it’s so unsatisfying and annoying to me. Not only is it a convenient lightning rod but also part of a growing anti-narrative about that player that lots of people can enjoy piling on and feeling rewarded because you get lots of positive feedback. I get that, but I hate to see it because I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair not so much because it’s untrue that these two are not shaky defensively and prone to bad decisions. That is true. I don’t think it’s fair because we talk about that to the exclusion of too much else that I believe is just as or more relevant and certainly much more interesting. So that’s why you see me jump to the defense of players who I perceive are targeted unfairly, and Xhaka and Mustafi are two of the foremost in this moment.. but there is always somebody.

        1. “in this age of frame by frame hyper-analysis it’s so unsatisfying and annoying to me”

          This made me laugh out loud. Not because I don’t have empathy but precisely because I do even though I am coming from a different place. I think not all statements are meant for analysis and you certainly don’t need to be drunk or even slightly buzzed for venting your frustration at Xhaka and Mustafi. Obviously they don’t require analysis. They are a bit like the truth staring at your face but you being unable to do anything about it. In this case I’m referring to us finding better replacements for those two of course. If anything, I actually found myself opening a bottle of wine AFTER I saw their defending.

          Strangely enough, I see some light at the end of the tunnel for Xhaka. Mustafi however, needs to be benched for Socrates.

  10. Fair result. We couldn’t handle Zaha at all. Most fouled player on the pitch. No blame attached to Granit. Zaha got the same reaction from every player he faced. Mustafi needed to take a yellow on that play by bringing down the midfield runner instead of running alongside him. Sokratis would have. Guendouzi did exactly that late in the game. Decision-making is Mustafi’s problem. He hasnt been playing too badly of late, but his head just wasn’t in this game.

    Bad giveaway by Laca to set up the break though. Another frustrating game for him. Iwobi poor today. Emery right to yank Ozil (who was mad at being subbed)… half-paced and leisurely in a high-intensity game is a recipe for losing the game. Which we might have done last year. King Wele was a good call in that situation. You know Mesut is having one of those games when he tries a complicated short corner routine early in the game, instead of pressuring Palace early. Some days you have to serve burgers, not caviar.

    Torreira our best player. Won the free kick, put out fires in midfield, cleared a dangerous ball in the box later on. His positional sense is really good.

  11. Which part?
    Arsenal being second best all over the pitch or Mustafi and Xhaka being poor defenders?

    1. The part where you said you can’t think of two other players on any team less suited to sensible defending. Maybe you meant among defenders?

      1. It’s going to be lost in the melee because he gave away the penalty but Xhaka’s free kick was a real gem. It’s the type of strike you only expect to see from the best in the game. It looked like the CR7 trademark strikethrough with the laces and get late dip, only he did it from the corner of the D and planted it into the postage stamp with such venom that the ball seemed to knock the GK’s hand out of the way on its way in. He also went straight to Emery to celebrate, which seems to say that Emery encouraged him to work on that technique.

        1. Think the Arsenal fanbase can both appreciate the free-kick and lament Xhaka undoing his good work with a typical mistimed challenge.

          1. Yes, they can, but I haven’t seen anyone comment on the brilliance of the FK so far, have you?

          2. No, I meant on this here message board, not the broader universe, because we are both posting on this message board.

          3. Even though you actually wrote “anyone”, I knew what you probably meant on here.

            I’m messing with you because I loathe your habit of being pedantic about other people’s post-match comments. Maybe learn to take people’s snap judgements figuratively, and not literally.

          4. Whew, the temptation to write something nasty about you was strong but I am glad I resisted, that is not the kind of person I want to be.

            To be perfectly honest with you, it didn’t occur to me to suppose that he meant defenders only until after I posted my initial reply and thought about it some more, so you caught me, I am guilty on that score. I will also reveal that I felt a teensy bit of guilt for the comment, because it’s a little bit unkind to read into a brief comment too much, as you point out. You will have noticed though that I included that in my follow up comment, so I was not unaware of the potential negative reverberations I sent into the universe by posting something mildly abrasive on the internet. I do not feel incredibly sorry because at the end of the day it’s just the internet and to say there is worse than me out there is a bit of an understatement. But I also want to represent myself in a good way no matter the medium, while still engaging in healthy debate when appropriate. There, now I’ve given you the perfect lead-in to call me self-indulgent and I probably deserve a bit of that too. In a perfect world I would not post on the internet at all but do something far more wholesome, like feed the homeless or built bird habitats. But I am not perfect. Thank you for reminding me of that today, and I mean that without any sarcasm.

          5. Well, seeing as you resisted the temptation to write something nasty about me, in the spirit of self-reflection I’m glad I resisted the temptation to write a lengthy rebuttal expressing my true disgust at your “using violence, even against the KKK, makes a person just as much of an extremist as the KKK” comment, something only a person who didn’t know the KKK used to hang pregnant black women, then rip their unborn children from their bellies and hang them up as well while nice, ordinary, adults and kids cheered on, could have written.

            Learning to live with the fact that people of different backgrounds have different perceptions of the world is a challenge society is failing at so badly, I guess we have to do our little bit to redress the balance on this here forum that Tim thinks only 3 people read.

          6. Another deep breath.

            I believe the exact scenario I posited was that hanging a klan member upside down and pelting him with rotten tomatoes makes us no better than them, because vigilante justice is never OK. It may sound like a subtle correction, but I believe an important one because your version explicitly compares the scales of the crimes and mine doesn’t, and mine illustrates a broader point and yours doesn’t. I picked a person who is universally hated to make it more salient. If you want to argue about the literal justice behind either scenario, I obviously won’t disagree that their historical crimes are worse than hanging someone upside down and pelting them with fruit. But that wasn’t my point at all, and I think it takes some intentional misreading to arrive at that conclusion for what I wrote.

            On a broader point, it concerns me that you see it as your mission to redress the social justice balance on a soccer forum. You might want to re-think your approach for making a difference in the world.

          7. That’s your pathology right there. You don’t expect your worldview, littered as it is with alt-right adjacent, PC-gone mad rhetoric to be challenged on the internet.

            I don’t comment on here for weeks at a time, and when I do, yours is the first reply I get, where you’ve chosen one line out of what I wrote to go off on some spiel about extremism and the KKK. And you have the nerve to accuse me of somehow policing *you*.

            The idea that vigilante justice is never okay is so massively dismissive of real, actual American history and it’s history of violence, a violence that often saw the state collude with citizens in targeting minorities with vigilante justice. What’s funny to me is that you claim to be so patriotic about such a childish white-washed version of American history. The KKK were not “universally hated” at the time, because in fact they were ordinary police chiefs, school-teachers, state senatoes, and even judges. They were domestic terrorists and they were extremely popular.

            I guess the great victory of American whiteness is making it mainstream to call yourself a “patriot” while remaining steadfastly ignorant about the lived American history of fellow citizens with a different shade of skin. That’s why you’re out here coming up with the kind of false equivalence that today’s fascists jerk off to in their sleep.

            Oh and on a broader point, part of the reason the modern day Arsenal is one of the most welcoming multicultural football clubs in the world, and not more like Chelsea (who are having to send the worst of their fans on correctional visits to former concentration camps), is because in the 70s and 80s a multiracial coalition of Gooners literally fought violent, bloody, pitched battles in the stands and in the streets against the far right National Front, who were trying to recruit new members from within our fanbase.

            So excuse me if I find some of your comments ironic.

          8. I must have given you reason to feel this way about me so I apologize for hurting your feelings. I probably said things to you that were hurtful and I should not have done that. I also forgive you for that tirade, I know it’s not really about me but rather about what you see in my comments that reminds you of injustices in the world. I know you’re trying to do a good thing at heart.

          9. I’m okay with you pretending to yourself that I was in need of, or asked for your forgiveness.

            But I prefer that you drop the condescension, keep being you and keep expressing your own points of view as you see them. I’ll do likewise.

          10. Any justification for vigilante justice in a US context is the same justification used for lynchings in the 20th century, namely (to paraphrase) that it’s “ok to act outside the law and torture somebody when the law doesn’t satisfy your personal sense of justice.” I don’t ever want that to be ok, regardless of your political position. It justifies acts of violence on both sides. We can do better. For instance, I like to think we are better than the alt-right, who prove their social and moral deprivation by declaring the law bankrupt (screw the optics) in light of their personal sense of ‘justice’…in order to shoot up a synagogue. For example. Let’s subscribe to something beyond ourselves, even just to subscribe to the IDEA of something beyond ourselves.

          11. Bun, I respect you a lot but you’re feeding into another type of false equivalence. The locus of the synagogue shooter’s violent impulses was not just his “personal sense of injustice”, it was racial and anti-immigrant animus stirred up and promoted by nationalist forces currently in power. It’s very close to being state-sponsored terrorism.

            And if you discuss the justification for 20th century lynchings and omit the fact that they were primarily driven, heavily driven, by racial animus and supported by state actors, you’re engaging in a form of historical white-washing . Do you know how many people participated in lynchings and never faced justice, or were protected by sympathetic “law enforcement”?

            I understand and even agree with your overall point about not adopting the tactics of your enemy. I’m arguing against the idea that “fighting extremism makes you just as bad” because it’s lazy and ahistorical. You can’t make easy equivalences between the type of structural violence that targets minorities, and individuals that may choose to fight against it.

            If we’re not going to accurately describe the conditions in which they happened, let’s just leave lynchings or the KKK out of the discussion. I mean, there’s a reason Jewish people dislike analogies about what happened to their people in the 30s and 40s, and Black folks dislike lynching analogies.

          12. By “personal” I also mean biases driven by personal feelings about race, ethnicity, etc. We don’t want anybody saying to themselves that it’s justifiable to commit acts of violence that are against the law because their own racism, sexism, crazy conspiracy theories, etc. dictates to them that protections of certain people groups is fundamentally wrong (and therefore means they should take justice into their own hands). Lynching is a “justice” system that is absolutely based on a personal sense of right and wrong. Those monsters felt it was justifiable, the key word there being “felt.”

            Let me be clear that when I hear stories about lynchings, I want the perpetrators to suffer a horrible death. Yet I also believe a logic of vigilantism was at work in the original crime, and that’s not a logic that serves society well.

          13. I have a comment awaiting moderation, but I’ll add here that, yes, I’m fine with leaving out certain analogies.

            The only real issue I have with your comment is the idea that analogies themselves erase difference in an insidious way (you accused me of white-washing). Much of the early civil rights movements, by the way, worked from analogy, including (to the point of your comment) how the plight of black people in early America was analogous to the story of Exodus in the Hebrew scriptures, both in its injustice and in its desire for freedom.

            Vile r*cism is at the heart of both analogies raised, and my point is simply that perpetrators in both circumstances felt justified in doing these things because they felt the law was inadequate to their personal sense of right and wrong. I believe that’s the definition of vigilantism.

          14. Good point about the usefulness of analogies.

            I’m not arguing against analogies per se, or even about the definition of vigilantism and who gets called a ‘vigilante’ vs who gets called a ‘freedom fighter’. I’m mainly arguing against facile false equivalences. Opposing vigilante violence with violent means does not make you “as much of an extremist as the KKK”… Allied soldiers fighting fascism during WWII were not “as bad as their enemies”, etc.

            Surprised some of my comments didn’t get moderated too.

          15. Yes, you’re saying that there are times when violence is justified, as in a war, or when someone is endangering the safety of others. I believe that’s true. I don’t think of police work (which can involve violence), for example, as immoral…until it is.

            Man, this just got me thinking that it’s been ages since we had a war like WWII in which the moral lines were so clearly drawn!

  12. Tough, physical, tight game played by a team that looked desperate and played hard I-XI. Arsenal couldn’t match their intensity over 90 minutes.

    Ozil in a game like this is a luxury in some sense, so the decision by Emery to remove him and put Welbeck on is a flash point in this game. I didn’t think Ozil was being lazy but of course you get more physicality from Welbeck, so I understood that change when you have the lead in this sort of game. It did seem to lead to a lack of cohesion when we had the ball, which put Cry Pal more on the front foot. Arsenal had 3 center forwards for a while there and no conductor to stitch the play together. Ramsey’s introduction was probably an attempt to address that but he is no Ozil. I wonder if Emery still makes that change with the benefit of hindsight.

    He will be frustrated for sure that the tying goal came from a really terrible looping, slow pass from Lacazette centrally to Torreira, who was immediately mobbed and robbed of it, and that set them off for a 4 v 4 situation which ended with their only really dangerous forward, Zaha, isolating Granit Xhaka in the penalty box. It’s easy to blame Xhaka but the coach will focus on the decision making that allowed that high leverage opportunity for them to develop. Sticking his leg out like that was obviously poor technique and there is no two ways about that, still as a team you know who you have at LB and you have to take precautions to protect him. We did that all right for most of this game.

    I thought Arsenal actually defended quite well in this game overall. I was impressed by the application shown by Aubameyang in particular and Ozil too at times to press and harry from the front and track backward when necessary. We didn’t get the win today but overall Arsenal’s play and the play of individuals continues to develop.

    1. We were disjointed WITH Ozil. See my halftime comment.

      Obvious sub. Glad we have a coach with the stones to sub or bench big names.

      1. I didn’t disagree with the move at the time, but I did think the move handed the initiative to Cry Pal bc I thought we couldn’t keep the ball in their half without Mesut. It’s my subjective observation and it could be wrong.

      2. Ozil was playing a bit half-hearted and that was frustrating but I thought that having gone up a goal, he would be able to find a bit more space to do his thing, so I would have left him on the pitch for a few more mins.

        Your estimate of Xhaka scoring 8 goals this season is starting to look pretty good! Even I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel for him. What a strange feeling this is.

  13. Torreira finally had the game I thought he would have. In a way it’s a testament to his ability that he’s waited this long to have a nightmare. The problem is that I think more teams are going to target him now.

    1. Who had a nightmare? 92% passing, dispossessed once, 3 tackles, who knows how many recoveries… you lost me.

    2. I read with interest that Arseblog gave him a high rating!

      I quote: “Excellent again: 9 ball recoveries, 3/3 tackles, 3 interceptions, 4/4 clearances.”

      You two are walking on the same street in parallel universes in which one is always the inverse of the other like in a China Mieville novel! Or something!

    3. I wouldn’t say it was a nightmare, but certainly off his recent standard. He made some poor decisions and dwelt on the ball a bit. To be fair, Laca put him in a very bad position with that chipped ball that ultimately led to the Xhaka penalty. And I seem to recall that happening a few times. Maybe the guys are relying/expecting too much of him – expecting him to handle anything thrown at him. Still, there was something about our midfield duo today that excited me. CP has a very strong and athletic midfield and our young duo held their own. Far from perfect, mind you, but very respectable. If Guen gets bigger and stronger, we might be unstoppable in midfield. They both have such high ceilings. I will not be entirely surprised if Emery starts these 2 against the Pool press. Xhaka simply can’t handle that kind of pressure, whereas the young Turks are much more confident against it. Assuming Nacho is healthy, I think we’d be smarter to leave Xhaka and his 4 yellows on the bench, free kicks be damned.

  14. Wan-Bissaka will end up at a top 3 Premier League club and Sven Mislintat had better be on it in January. What a player.

    He more than held his own against us, read and cut off our moves, was never once outmuscled and showed unreal calm and technique progressing the ball forward for Palace.

    Love this point because we’d have lost this game last season. 22 from the last 24 mean Emery is well ahead of expectations. In any case, we needed this lesson in away-game adversity, and today the weak links in our squad are a little clearer for us to see. For example, we won’t get the defensive balance right until we recruit a left-footed CB, and a pure winger (which we don’t have) is priceless in these kind of games.

  15. If you had offered me 22 points from a possible 24 over this run, I’d have bitten both your hands off! If we’re honest, there have been some worrying spells and performances throughout this run of wins, and we finally got what we deserved. Actually, we probably deserved to lose. Anyway, this only clarifies the task facing Emery. Shame about injuries also. We’ve lost all our fullbacks, it seems.

    1. We absolutely deserved to lose. And yeah look at more injuries arriving right on time for dreaded November.

      As far as I’m concerned this run we’ve had with Auba scoring goals with his last six shots in a row (madness), Xhaka belting in set-piece worldies, and Iwobi playing like Ronaldinho, has been little short of miraculous.

  16. Emery has passed all of his tests thus far with flying colors. Project 22 has been excellent. Having no real LB really hampered our offense. We had no push up the left it seemed. Then losing Bellerin was a gut punch. No one left to overlap and cut back at all. Under those conditions to take a point away, from a Palace team that played surprisingly well, is no shame at all. I hope the frustration and anger the players showed will drive them to prepare for Pool and play like men on fire. Hoping we have an LB by then.

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