Assigning the blame

Good morning folks. No news this morning about what the punishment will be for Arsenal’s “failure to queue” in the Manchester City match. I did take a moment to read the rule we’ve been charged with (20.1) and it seems to suggest that one of the players, fans, or club representatives did or said something threatening to Stuart Attwell or his officiating crew. Everyone’s assuming it was Gabriel and that’s a fair assumption but I’d like to know who and what, exactly, was said. My guess is that the report was vague on that detail and even if not we will probably never know because this will all be swept under the rug until the next time something happens in an Arsenal match refereed by Stuart Attwell.

In transfer news I’m not seeing anything reliable (BBC or Guardian) but lots of news on Twitter suggesting that Ainsley Maitland-Niles is going to Roma on loan, with Jose Mourinho even confirming the deal (hearsay, via twitter). Let’s assume for a minute that this is going to happen, it’s all a bit strange isn’t it? AMN wanted to leave us a few years ago and we had an offer from Wolves. The Guardian reported the fee was £20m but other places have put the offer from Wolves lower, £15m. Arsenal rejected the offer and convinced AMN to stay by uhh.. promising him more playing time. Which, to be fair, Arteta did give him at first – and in the coveted MF role. But since then AMN has been benched again, and even dropped from the first team entirely.

The latest reports (December 2021) say that he’s upset and feels like the club made promises to him that they didn’t keep. I feel bad for the guy because he just wants to play football. The life of a professional athlete is incredibly dull: you wake up at the same time every day, train train train, force-feed on bland food, play a match, recover, and do it all over again. Arsene Wenger called it a “monastic” life and the more I learn about the lives of professional athletes the worse they seem.

But the whole goal of all these asceticism is to be able to play the game that you love. Now imagine doing all of that and despite Sambi dropping out of favor, Xhaka’s injury, and Partey going off to AFCON, there’s a real chance you’re doing all of that for nothing? Man I would be angry too. And don’t @ me with how much money they make. They spend 24 hours a day in this regimented routine, and I don’t know how much money someone would have to pay me to do that. Especially if there’s no real reward at the end. Besides, it’s not like they really get to spend it. A guy like AMN needs to save every dime because his career is going to be over in just a few years and his prospects for future work aren’t great. Look at Eboue. Poor guy didn’t manage his money well and now he’s basically broke and has no marketable skills.

This should be the plot of a short story, like “The Bet” by Chekhov. Except instead of coming out at the end of 15 years of monastic life a super genius (because he — ah ha! — read the Bible), they come out this completely and utterly stilted human being who knows almost nothing but how to train and force-feed themselves steamed chicken breast and broccoli. Heyyy! But they have a million dollars!

Anyway, it feels almost cruel to then, on top of all of that, send him off to have to work with Jose Mourinho. But, you can see why he would do it: at least there’s a chance he could play. At Arsenal? I’m not sure he’ll get any playing time at Arsenal after January. Best of luck to him, he’s really going to need it.

Auba got COVID while preparing for his AFCON tournament. A lot of folks blaming him because he went out to a restaurant but that actually bothers me quite a bit. I knew that the club’s tarnishing him with “breaking COVID rules” would linger and it seems to have with people blaming him for getting COVID. Weirdly, no one is blaming Arteta, Pep, Klopp, or anyone else when they get COVID and who knows where they have been? But hey, Auba went out to dinner with his teammates and a few friends. Look, it’s not something I would personally do but this Omicron variant is virtually ubiquitous and there’s no telling where he got it.

We have gotten to the point with many things in human life where we love to assign individual blame for societal ills. Global warming? Well that’s just down to my individual choices to use single-use plastic, eat beef, or take vacations, isn’t it? It’s not at all about massive subsidies to oil companies or deregulation of fossil fuel industries. A player gets COVID? Oh, well that’s actually his own fault and not at all a symptom of a much larger cultural and social failure.

Assigning individual blame for the systems collapsing around us is a convenient scapegoat. And it’s part of the big lie that we’ve been sold over the last 50 years. It allows some of us to remain smug in our belief that we are “doing this right” and simultaneously disempowers us from effecting the real change that’s needed. Changes to our structures of power. As long as we are all blaming each other, and keeping tabs on what we are all doing, the actual people with their hands on the levers of power can keep doing what they are doing without interference. It’s divide and conquer on the individual level.

So, anyway, I hope that Auba gets better soon and that he and the club find a way to quickly get a divorce because I’m already tired of stories about Auba.

There are a lot of rumors swirling about who will come in to Arsenal this January and I’m not going to entertain any of them at the moment. Instead of picking up on an individual, I have put together a profile of the kind of striker/CF that Arsenal need to target this January (through to the summer). Here it is:

  1. Must be willing to press
  2. Must be big and strong so that he can bang with PL CBs
  3. Can drop deep like aux midfielder
  4. Can turn and take on defenders
  5. Must be quick and able to score on the counter
  6. Incredible touch, fucking midas touch m8
  7. Must be under the age of 26
  8. Can score headers
  9. Never misses big chances
  10. Has his own alarm clock
  11. Doesn’t miss COVID tests after getting 35 minutes of leave to go visit him mom
  12. Reuses single-use plastics, I mean like he’s washing out ziploc bags and shit man, he’s committed to saving the planet
  13. Dresses extremely conservatively, just black suits, white shirts, and red ties
  14. Never spends his money
  15. Sleeps exactly 8 hours a day
  16. In that Boba Fett chamber thing
  17. Spends the other 16 hours a day doing nothing but football
  18. NEVER goes out to a restaurant (obv.)
  19. Hates fashion
  20. Drives a 1986 Ford Fiesta* and ONLY a Fiesta (or similar old, cheap car, to show how he’s not big upping how much money he makes)

Shouldn’t be too hard for Arsenal to find this guy and I look forward to the club’s official announcement next week.


*I had one of these, they are actually not that bad a car!


  1. i really like the look of dusan vlahovic. i’ve heard rumors for months about the kid but finally watched a youtube video of him yesterday and he looks the business…certainly moreso than the sweedish kid, isak. he reminds me a bit of giroud except giroud scores more spectacular goals. i particularly like his movement without the ball and his ability to keep the ball. we’ll see.

    1. Much as he might check off Tim’s first 10 requirements (I’m sure he has an alarm clock), I don’t think he wants to come to Arsenal. He wants big money and to play for a Champions League contender. He knows zero English and there’s no other Serbs/Croats/Bosnians/Slovenians on the team to help him acclimatize to life in London. Xhaka would be the closest, and having an ethnic Albanian and a Serb in the same locker room is risking friction, there’s a lot of history there.

      1. Jack, are you saying we would need to choose between Xhaka and Vlahovic? What a dilemma.

      2. Plus, big Kolasinac could kick his ass with one leg immobilised.

        Look, Jack, theyre professional footballers. Multinational teams are a thing. Do you even know which other nationalities he’s mixing with in the Fiorentina dressing room? If City or Liverpool call, he would probably answer.

        1. I completely blanked on Kola still being on the team.

          You are right of course – 95% of the players leave their ethnic identities outside the dressing room. I was just trying to make the point that it’s a better sell if there’s a link or mentor, like David Luiz was for the two Gabriels, already established in the team.

    2. I agree, but if he is that good, he will most certainly go to a BIGGER (not better) club

  2. Strikers that would meet at least 1-10 of the criteria:

    Jonathan David, 21, Canadian, Lille – we have good relations with Lille (Pepe, Gabriel)
    Joao Pedro, 20, Brazilian, Watford – they’re going down, will need to sell him
    Domenic Calvert-Lewin, 24, English, Everton – probably prohibitively expensive (70-80m?)
    Karim Adeyemi, 19, German, RB Salzburg – would need to beef up a bit

    1. Not at all being ironic when I say that I believe Martinelli fits a lot of the more realistic criteria on the list. I believe he also drives a Ford Fiesta.

      1. I always thought Martinelli would be a great CF, but I’m no longer sure. I’m not sure he has that low center of gravity/upper body strength that allows you to back into CBs, hold them off, etc. He’s explosive, dynamic, strong, and tackles. But he does it more like Alexis than he does Giroud, if you know what I mean. I don’t know, depends what we really want from a CF I guess.

        I’ve seen Martinelli in the flesh, he’s not a very tall boy. Not short, but not tall.

        1. He’s listed at somewhere between 176cm (which is 2cm taller than me) and 180cm. It looks to me like he grew a bit this year and I think he’s taller than Lacazette but I agree he’d need to fill out.

  3. lol. Tim’s 20 commandments. Im sure that there are hundreds of elite strikers out there who fit the bill 🙂

    Scouted Vlahovic by YouTube yesterday, watching all of his goals from last year. Big, strong, quick, scores plenty. My one note of caution is that he seems very left footed. That’s OK. It’s his strong foot. But his right looks like a chocolate leg. Example. Chance arrives on his right to hit it first time, but took a second to transfer to his left. Look, YouTube is inconclusive. He could be a sure shot in the ePL, or that could be a problem. See Pepe, N. But if he comes, it’ll be business. Dont expect him to replicate the Laca role, though. He’s not that type of forward. The player he’ll most likely replace in the starting lineup is Martinelli, which would be a shame because the Brazilian has seized his chance. But I agree with Jack. Looks like another Locatelli, a player who wanted a bigger club than Arsenal. We’ll see.

    On Auba. Like you, Tim, I want a quick divorce. Arteta’s game by game ban is the coach willy waving. Lukaku transgressed, his coach publicly admitted it was unhelpful, left him out for a time and then swiftly reintegrated him. I know that the cases are different, but a rolling ban for the infraction that is public knowledge seems unwarranted. Auba, to his credit, has kept a dignified silence, and has avoided the kind of sly social media trolling that Mesut engaged in. Let’s get this over with. The same gooners laying into Auba for getting covid were the ones bigging him up when his goals were a big part of Arteta winning his only trophy. But enough. Basta.

    If Elneny is playing ahead of Ainsley, then it may truly be time for him to pack his suitcase.

    1. My hope (and expectation) is that AMN and Elneny are both out this summer. That leaves us a body short. We must be planning on bringing someone in, and my hope (but not expectation) is that it is someone who relegates Xhaka to the bench.

      1. I’m encouraged by the Bruno Guimares rumors. I think he can be had now that Lyon are struggling, and Edu has had contact for a long time. The player himself has openly admitted wanting to play in England. He’s the right type of age and has the profile to supplant Xhaka.

        1. Anyone has a clue on what happened to Sambi? His last game was strong and then he disappears… Must have displeased the boss somehow…

  4. I hear Gary Goals is available. Might not meet the age criteria but boy does he bangem-in

  5. I don’t think Vlahovic will consider us, and why would he? He could move to any number of big teams.

    Anyway, I have some concerns about him in this Arsenal team. Having not watched him (or seen all that many highlights), maybe someone can shed light on this.

    We’ve hit some recent form – not just in terms of results, but performances too – of late, with Laca up top. Laca is nowhere near a top striker these days, but I do believe it’s what he is doing well that is unlocking the team. His selfless play, energetic pressuring of CBs, and movement are unlocking the three players around him. We may be overperforming our xG, but regardless, we look GOOD.

    Laca doesn’t score many. He gets some opportunities he could do better with (and I want a striker that does better with those), but it looks like his focus is on the team and not individual glory. Young players with strong scoring stats – like Haaland, like Vlahovic – they sound like little Cristianos. They want the goals. They want to score. And that’s fine in many a team! But is that fine with Arsenal? This Arsenal team?

    I wouldn’t want to see us revert to a team where the attacking players’ sole responsibility is getting the ball to the striker. Like Podolski many a year ago, you can have a goal machine who makes the team worse (he was never prolific with us, but that really was his role). We all love seeng this time right now, and I’m not sure Vlahovic is that selfless, hardworking player who will sacrifice personal stats for his own glory.

    And why would he? He’s free to choose his own path and best of luck to him.

    A final thought. Apart from Spurs, I don’t think any top (lol) PL team plays like that anymore. City certainly don’t – their top scorers are wingers. They don’t play with a big, dominant striker up top. Nor do Pool, who really on the supreme skill of their front three as a unit. Chelsea are the same – despite splunking 100m on Lukaku, I don’t think their gameplan is to stick him up top and channel everything through him.

    United are trying that, with Ronaldo and/or Cavani, and it’s not really working?

    My argument isn’t really that a Vlahovic wouldn’t fit in the premier league, but that maybe teams have moved away from that style a little bit. City certainly have, and if Arteta is a Pep acolyte, I don’t imagine he’d want that either.

    I don’t know too much about the other contenders. If an Isak or a DCL can be an energetic, selfless presence who can nonetheless score a goal or give an assist every other game, then maybe those are better options?

    1. Well, City did pursue Harry Kane and will do so again. They also shipped Ferran Torres back out after a short spell, presumably because he is not a center forward.

      1. I do think they would want to invest in a striker who can win headers and provide a physical foil for our impish young attacking midfielders, not to mention get on the end of those juicy crosses from LT. Calvert Lewin does seem to fit the bill and I would be happy to have him.

        I don’t know much about Vlahovic but I seldom see strikers come to the PL from Italy. I bet he ends up at Juve, they all do.

        1. My money was on Juve too, until I saw them making a big point about keeping Morata. They’re too similar to play together. But you never know. Juve seem pretty keen on dumping Ramsey’s salary.

          Wouldn’t it be great if Edu and Mikel surprised us the way they did with Tomi? Not the bright shiny object, but something really good that no one saw coming.

  6. Vlahovic is not coming to us. Neither is Lautaro Martinez (saw this laughable rumor the other day somewhere). I’m not sure why no one (Arsenal included) are not looking at Luka Jovic. He’s considered pretty much a flop at RM, and Carlo doesn’t rate him. He’s way down the pecking order and plays second fiddle (or third actually) to Benzema and Vinicius Jr. He won’t be expensive. He’s young. And he’s already somewhat proven. Not a huge gamble to bring him in, IMHO.

    1. Jovic was quite good in the Bundesliga and he doesn’t look like any other strikers we have on the roster. I agree, this may be another back door way to take a young underappreciated player away from Real Madrid. Bring him in on loan, let him experience the youth project underway, then pull an Odegaard in the summer. He’s 6’0″ and strong. But Real will probably want more money than we think, they paid 50m or thereabouts for him.

  7. A couple of young forwards worth a look:

    – Jonathan David, Canadian playing for Lille, nose for goal
    – Youssoufa Moukoko, came through the ranks at Dortmund and establishing in their first team. He’ll establish when Haaland leaves
    – Pedro Neto, Wolves, has played as a winger but at 21 could be a versatile addition
    – Michael Olise, Crystal Palace, one to watch under Paddy’s tutelage

    1. Olise was great way before he went to Palace. Was easy to spot in the data as well: great first touch and dribbling.

        1. Agree on both counts.

          Olise was also Cry Pal’s only threat after they went full turtle.

  8. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think Calvert-Lewin would literally transform the team and do more to lock us into the top 4, more so than any other transfer. He’s good for 20-25 goals and 10 assists (if he stays healthy) and what a target for Tierney and Tomiyasu crosses. Young and English and probably instant chemistry with Saka, ESR and Odegaard. I hate to say it – he’d be our Harry Kane. And I think he would not hesitate to come to Arsenal. Do we have the stomach for a 90m bid?

    1. DC-L is a promising young player, who had a really good 21 goals season last year. We’d be mad to pay Everton £90m for a guy who has had one breakout season, and for whom they paid £1.5m in 2016. Did he really add £88m to his value in 5 and a half years? I know that Brighton pulled our pants down for Ben White, but we have to be careful about massively over-paying for English talent. I wouldnt mind if he came, though. He’s 24, an international, and can grow with this lot. And for me, the stronger the indigenous core at Arsenal, the better.

      1. My thought on the valuation is as follows:

        Transfermarket has him listed as being worth 49.5m
        add 10m premium because of his age (<25)
        add 10m premium because he's homegrown and English
        add 10m premium because it's January
        add 10m because it's Everton and they see themselves as competing with us for 4th/5th (some day)

  9. Read your post Tim. So much sensitivity without prejudices. If there were lots of more people like you the world would be such a good place

  10. Ornstein reporting Vlahovic interest. After 10 minutes of watching highlight compilations on Twitter, I can confidently say he is a sort of Frankenstein’s monster comprised of two parts Dimitar Berbatov, one part Robin van Persie and one part Nemanja Vidic. So like he is basically perfect. Also he he will definitely sign for Arsenal, because that’s what the people want!

    Seriously though his hold up play does look impressive.

    1. Just be aware when watching him that Serie A, and I say this as someone who watches Atalanta every week, Serie A is incredibly slow and soft.

  11. My goodness. Newcastle are a mess. Soon to be the richest 2nd division club in the world?

    1. They are a mess, though I would say that their most important goal this season is to avoid relegation.

  12. If 40 points was the bar they’re fvcked! But 17th place Watford are 13 points. Buy a striker and a half decent creative midfielder and they’ll be fine.

    Rumour has it the owners visited the players in the dressing room after the match. That rarely ends well, for both parties.

  13. Tim. Awesome posts thanks. I have been traveling and haven’t had much chance to read or comment. A bit late but happy New Year. I hope 2022 brings health and good fortune to everyone.

    It was interesting to read the comments and the general tone of the blog. After the Everton game a lot of us were talking about how the manager has been holding the team back and sacking Arteta and 6 games later the tone has completely changed and we are talking about being a top 4 team and we have finally unlocked something which has changed everything. I would suggest the 15 years of history indicates the pessimism we had after the Everton game and the optimism many seem to have now are over reactions. If our problems were all Arteta’s fault over the last 2 years then our sudden turnaround has to be because he suddenly changed everything. You can’t blame him completely when things go bad and then not give him as much credit when things suddenly go well. I don’t believe he had some sort of eureka moment after the Everton game and changed everything. I agree the team is better now then it was in the last couple years but you would expect that after spending >$150M last summer and >$200M in the last couple years. The squad was not good enough to play the way we are right now in the last couple seasons. It certainly can’t be a coincidence that when Arteta gets better players he suddenly looks a lot smarter. In the last 6 games we have played the best possible football we can but 15 years of watching this team has proven that almost no team goes plays at its absolute best for an entire season.. I suspect when the next downturn comes there will be a lot of speculation Arteta has fallen back to his nature and old habits but I don’t think a manager goes up and down like that. A couple years ago Liverpool was arguably the best team in the world and then last season they barely hung on to the top 4. Did Klopp suddenly forget how to be the best manager in the world? Its was the same with Arsene and the same with Arteta.

  14. Just as I was thinking that Forest RFB Spence looks the best player on the pitch in the first half, Arteta subs Tavares. Spence is one reason why. Tough, energetic. Didn’t let us play. Looks quite the prospect.

    1. 👆🏽This was halftime. Forest played even better in the second. They were better than we were. We were low on energy and ideas. They shackled Saka, throwing 2 defenders at him and never letting him move the ball to his left and (Bill, please note… tactics matter), we did not have an answer. Nuno aside, Patino, Lokonga and Eddie had strikingly bad games. Xhaka share prices have risen a bit. Ah well. We’ll beat Liverpool and win Tim’s favourite cup, won’t we?

  15. That was a prophetic title.

    Abysmal display today, looked like total strangers playing, and hey they were!

    Dangerous next few games, 2X pool and spuds.

    Did not Arteta know we were going to be missing players at AFCON? Seriously…

    With Xhaka out due to Covid, the midfied just left town!

  16. Quick note…. Lyon and PSG are playing right now. half an hour gone at the time of posting this. If you want to see Bruno — the probable answer to our midfield shortage — and Aouar, and are able to watch, watch.

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