Looks like football is back on the table, boys!

Good morning! Just a quick update on the shoulder situation to start off. On Wednesday I was doing my usual 2.5 mile walk with the dog, through the local park, when I came to a set of stairs I have descended thousands of times. On the second step my feet suddenly rolled out from under me and I landed hard on my back. My first thought was that I hurt my back (I broke my back when I was 18 and so I have rods stabilizing the fracture and I’m always worried I might hurt it more) but when I caught my breath it was my right shoulder which hurt.

When I looked down at the ground I saw the culprit: a half inch wooden dowel. I can’t imagine someone accidentally dropped this on their way through the park. Like there’s some guy out there carrying a bundle of dowels through a park and just whoopsie drops one on the second stair. It seems unlikely to me that this was a random event but whatever. The gods decided today would be the day that I have a comical fall down some stairs at the park.

I mentioned the fall on twitter and folks suggested I go to the doctor. Very well intentioned and I thank everyone for the empathy. However, the only thing that hurt was my shoulder and I decided to wait until the next day to see if it got better or worse. Well, it got better and it’s even better today. So, I’m all good. My back doesn’t hurt, more than normal, and my shoulder is back at about 98% working capacity with full range of old man motion restored.

Speaking of old man motion: I listened to the Everyone and their Mom podcast yesterday (it’s a show that’s bundled with Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me) and they dug up this ancient time capsule from.. 50 years ago. As I was listening to the show it dawned on me that I’m older than that time capsule. I am a time capsule. I guess you could ask me stuff about the 70s and I’d have to tell you. Like for example, one of my earliest memories were the troops coming home from the Vietnam war. I also had a bicycle with a banana seat. And I dressed up like Superman for halloween one year and the kid down the street dressed like Batman and I told him Superman could beat up Batman and we got in a fight and sure enough he won! Years later (in the 80s) people would demand that the studios release the Donner Cut which, with better editing and a different story, shows that I actually won. See, I am a time capsule.

In Arsenal news Mikel Arteta’s team won Manager of the Month for August. Why did I write it that way? Because when he presented the trophy he did so with his entire coaching staff. This is a magnificent gesture on his part and is exactly how I treat my team. When someone tries to recognize me for something, I gently correct them and say that it’s the whole Makerspace or IT staff who pulled this together. So, I respect the heck out of him for taking that photo with his whole team.

Arteta went further in the press conference crediting everyone associated with the club for the award. I don’t think this is just gestural, I think he means it. Acting this way and crediting everyone is a fundamental concept in anti-racism work. It recognizes the role and value that everyone brings to an organization. And he’s done it so perfectly here – and it matches a lot of the other things he says – that I don’t think this was just him making a meaningless gesture. I think he really believes that we succeed and fail as a team.

Ben White also mentioned this new community around the club, a new team mentality which has set in both on and off the pitch.

“This season has been very different. There’s a lot more togetherness, and the way we train is completely different. What we do off the pitch, the attitude and the spirit that we’re all together is completely different.”

I hope that sense of togetherness sticks with them through the tough times this season. They’re going to need it if they are going to mount a title challenge. Importantly, in the same vein that success is shared, failure also needs to be seen as both a natural outcome of work and as a communal endeavor. We don’t want to scapegoat individual people for failures, especially in a team game.

In fitness news there was a lot of speculation that Ben White is injured. Arteta states that is not the case. Zinchenko has picked up a calf injury which may mean he will miss the game on Sunday but Arteta wouldn’t be drawn on that one or any of the reported injuries (other than to specify that Ben White is NOT injured). According to Arteta we are waiting until tomorrow. It sounds like he doesn’t want to give Thomas Frank (Brentford manager) any previews of his team selection.

And finally, on whether players get selected for their national sides. Arteta said all the right things, that we are preparing the players, that they need to keep their heads down and work hard and be ready if they are selected. Every word of this is correct and good.

Personally, I completely understand that players are heartbroken when they aren’t selected. Gabriel Jesus is 25. He will probably only get one more shot at a World Cup after this one. Even worse, you never know what might happen between now and 2026. He could get picked to play after the World Cup and spend three years playing his heart out for his country only to get an injury and miss out on 2026. I’m not informed enough on the Brazil squad to say “I would take him” so all I can do is say that I feel bad for him if they don’t select him in November and it’s looking increasingly unlikely that they will. I often say that I don’t care about the international tournaments (and personally they don’t mean much to me, and I would prefer if our players aren’t burned out in January) but I’m not a psychotic monster. I know that this is going to be heartbreaking for Jesus.

For Ben White the situation is a little bit more clear to me. I have said for a long time that Maguire has a huge flaw. Fantastic in the air, rock solid in fact, but he has a specific weakness against a dribbler. I had a huge DM argument with another analytics person who showed me tons of charts which suggested that Maguire is super good but I kept saying “passing is great and I can see what you’re saying” but… if you’re a CB and you consistently have a problem stopping players who are dribbling at you, fans are going to get on your back, coaches are going to get frustrated, and you’re going to be considered an easy target for the opposition.

You will often hear me say something similar about Kepa Arrizabalaga. Incredibly good distributor but oh my lord he’s got a clear and obvious problem with his footwork in the box. He’s a keeper who has trouble saving shots! And look, this season Aaron Ramsdale has continued his slump from the 2nd half of last season and is struggling to make saves. What’s helping him at the moment is that Arsenal’s shots against volume is pretty low. Ramsdale has let in about 3 goals (2.6) more than expected this season (FBREF has it erroneously listed as -1.6) and that continues his form from last season where he was -7.1 worse than expected goals. The weird thing about Ramsdale is that he seems to do this: half a season good, half a season not great.

A lot of teams will continue to play a player with obvious flaws – and all players have flaws – because they can get away with it. For example, Ederson is one of the most upside down keepers in the league in terms of shot stopping against xG though part of that is also the types of chances that City concede. But City don’t care a lot because they literally concede the fewest chances. Will it hurt them in the long run? Probably not over a 38 game season.

But tournament football is very different. It’s often down to one mistake. This is why Jose Mourinho is so successful at tournament football. He knows that one mistake is all it takes for his team to win or lose a game.

Which brings me back to Harry Maguire. Without trying to sound too harsh I’ll just say that with his obvious flaw, with the way that England play, with his confidence as low as it is, with the fans openly booing him, and with the fact that they are playing in the World Cup. It’s a real head scratcher why he was selected over Ben White. A Ben White who has the versatility to play as a RB, CB, or RCB in a back three. The only reason I can see that Southgate thinks Maguire should go is that he feels continuity is more important. Well, I hope that the decision doesn’t come back to bite him*. Again, my heart goes out to Ben White who really seems like he wants to play for England.

Football is on Sunday (fingers crossed). Congratulations to the Arsenal team for the Manager of the Month award. Brentford is going to be a stern test. Let’s hope we continue our momentum and get all three points.


*Unless when playing against team USA we get a player to dribble in on him and he commits a foul and gives away a penalty and we win the game. In that case, I will gloat. Sorry in advance!


  1. The Maguire thing is crazy. It’s obvious to everyone that United’s defense is better with him on the bench. Whether or not White should be the one in the England squad instead of him might be debatable, but it’s ridiculous that Maguire is even being considered at this point.
    And while Ramsdale hasn’t been in top form, doesn’t seem to me like he’s been terrible either. I don’t remember too many of the goals being ones that he should obviously have saved.

    1. The Maddison goal went through his legs at the near post and folks thought he took a funny angle for the Antony goal too. He should’ve covered his right instead of trying to close off his left given he was facing a left footer. You can pick on him a little for the Douglas Luiz corner/goal in that maybe he should’ve just shoved the guy trying to seal him, but then VAR probably gives a penalty…

      But overall I think he is having a fine season. I think his distribution has been really good and I’m happy he’s our keeper. For me he’s top 5 in this league overall. He’s not as good at traditional goalkeeper stuff as some guys like Pope or DeGea, but he’s miles over those guys in terms of distribution, and that has a a ripple effect on the whole team. Top teams and coaches will gladly make that sacrifice because it gives them more control overall. Control limits chances and fewer chances naturally mean fewer goals.

      When you think that two of the goals we have conceded came from an own goal and a give away in our own box, and that a third one was a direct corner, we’ve done a damn good job of limiting chances for the opposition. Ramsdale’s chips over the press to the fullbacks or his raking diagonals to launch counters are a big part of that control.

  2. Glad to hear your shoulder is better and you didn’t need to shell out for an X-ray or treatment.

    Southgate’s preference for Maguire over White is inexplicable but perhaps it’s last chance saloon for the blockhead.

  3. There is a notion that Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Magalhães have locked slots of Brazil team so after Edu showed his magic BBQ Tite did not call them this time 🙂

  4. Jesus not going could be slightly understandable due to the embarrassment of talent in their frontline but then completely baffling when you see Richarlison getting selected.

  5. Jesus is going to the World Cup. His rivals for the CF spot are Firmino and Neymar. One is horribly out of form for Liverpool and, the other is better off the shoulder or on a wing.

    No one else on the Brazil squad is a true CF like our Jesus.

    Martinelli, of course, has to compete with Neymar and Vinicius Jr for that LW spot- probably the most competitive spot in world football at the moment.

  6. It doesn’t surprise me that Southgate would pick Maguire over White. Maguire has been poor for United but he has never let England down. Moreover, he’s a considerable threat at corners and set pieces.

    One of Arsene’s great quotes is that everyone thinks he has the prettiest wife at home.

    White is a terrific, versatile defender, but he has some way to go towards matching the battle tested experience of Maguire.It’s a trust thing. Coaches have their players… guys they can depend on. Maguire hasn’t proven to ten Hag that he can depend on him (Varane and Martinez have been superb of late), but he has to Southgate.

    Moreover, as well he has played since the start of the season, the fact is that White lost his place at CB. Gareth has good RB depth. All that can be true, alongside the fact that White is the better premier league defender.

    Arteta’s start was so good, that he really had no competition as MoTM. His bringing in the coaches is nice, but not that novel. That there’s no “i” in “team” is a well known and well-practiced ethos of modern management. I suspect he’s more concerned that there isn’t a repeat of the last time he won it, when we then proceeded to lose 3 in row.

    I haven’t been around for a while, so I don’t know if the Brazil squad picks have been commented on. But you don’t want your manager leaving you out in his last look at his collective before a world cup. That’s final prep. Not good. Tite says he wants to look at fringe players, and he goes and picks Neymar and Vinicius, nailed on starters. However, I do expect Jesus to make their WC squad. Portents may not be so good for the other 2 Gabriels.

  7. The day that international teams must submit their squad lists to FIFA is November 13th. So I really don’t see the current selections as being indicative of who will make it or not so much as managers wanting to have a last look look at certain players on the fringes. At this point they should know what their best team is and the issue is more to figure out what the best complementary pieces might be. At least that’s what makes sense to me. I don’t know how closely squad sheets on the final international day have corresponded with the final World Cup rosters, but that would be instructive to know if anyone feels like spending the time to find out.

    Maguire is not just in poor form, he’s a liability, at least in the buildup heavy, front foot style that ETH demands. The debacle at Brentford aside, I was jumping for joy to see him subbed on against us. In the first two minutes he managed to get booked and give away a dangerous free kick. Given a different game state he would’ve been picked on by our front 3 even more than he was. Sometimes players are much better for their international sides because they can play to their strengths in a different system. If that’s the idea then GS might be thinking to play counterattacking football and cede possession. In that type of system, BW’s quality in the buildup and fleetness of foot compared to HM become a lot less important, while aerial dominance and long passes are preferable. He might also just be kicking the tires. Regardless of how they play, England are stacked and should be one of the favorites to win.

  8. Tim have you been watching lord of the rings!?

    “What about their legs? They don’t need those…”
    “Oooh they look tasty..!!”


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